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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Prosecutorial Discretion

By law and by custom, a prosecutor has broad authority in prosecuting criminal cases, including the option to "screen out" or decide against pursuing a case at any stage. Soon after the police make an arrest, usually within twenty-four hours, the defendant appears before a judge, who determines whether the initial evidence indicates that this person has committed a crime. At this time and until trial, the prosecutor reviews the charges and makes a choice: prosecute, investigate, or go no further. The responsibility of making this call might be the most important one a prosecutor has. As it happens, many cases get screened out across the country for reasons that are hard to divine. For the most part, the exercise of "prosecutorial discretion" requires no formal process or oversight. A prosecutor does not have to explain his or her decision to proceed or dismiss a case and can even rely on gut instinct if he or she chooses. 

Amy Bach, Ordinary Justice, 2009 

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