The Ethics of Prosecutorial Discretion In The Criminal Justice System
Mar 23, 2023
One way to put it is that prosecutors have “prosecutorial discretion,” or the right to make their own choices in criminal cases. This can involve judgments about which charges to file and even whether to pursue a case. The prosecutor’s ability to use discretion is a crucial part of our criminal justice system. It empowers prosecutors to use judgment and discretion in seeking justice.
It would be impossible to exaggerate the value of prosecutorial discretion. Prosecutors play a key role in the criminal justice system. For the benefit of society, they are tasked with maintaining order and upholding legal norms. While making decisions, they need to strike a balance between the needs of the victim, the accused, and the public at large.
Tim Lohmar is a well-respected Prosecuting Attorney. He has extensive experience in high-profile cases in the St. Louis region. Tim Lohmar is an elite lawyer and former trial court judge, and he understands the importance of prosecutorial discretion in the criminal justice system. With authority to make decisions about charging, plea deals, and other aspects of a case, prosecutors like Tim Lohmar play a crucial role in enforcing the law and seeking justice for victims.
Historical Context of Prosecutorial Discretion
Prosecutorial discretion has been around for a long time. In the past, judges and prosecutors had a lot of power to make decisions about cases. They didn’t have a lot of rules to follow, so they could pretty much do what they wanted. As time went on, the criminal justice system became more complex. Today, prosecutors must follow many rules and laws when making case decisions. There are also legal precedents that guide prosecutors in how they exercise their authority.
Changes In The Modern Era
Prosecutors have a lot of power to decide how criminal cases are handled. It’s called “prosecutorial discretion.” Prosecutors have to follow more rules and laws now.
Legal precedents that shaped prosecutorial discretion
Legal precedents are important because they help shape how prosecutors make decisions. For example, the Supreme Court said prosecutors couldn’t use factors like race or gender when making decisions. But even with rules in place, prosecutors still have much power to impact people’s lives.
The Role of Prosecutors In The Criminal Justice System
A prosecutor’s duties include deciding whether to press charges, arranging a plea bargain, and presenting evidence in court. They assist law enforcement in their efforts. They may undertake their own investigations to acquire data. Prosecutors often work closely with victims and their loved ones. It helps them to explain the court system and make sure their concerns are heard.
Powers of The Prosecutor
The power of the prosecutor is substantial in our criminal justice system. They can choose what charges to bring and what evidence to use in court. They can also decrease charges or punishments for offenders who agree to plea bargains. When defendants reject plea offers or are found guilty at trial, prosecutors may be able to push for more severe punishments.
Accountability of Prosecutors
Public prosecutors are expected to operate ethically and take responsibility for their decisions. They have a responsibility to act in the best interest of justice. Disciplinary action, such as disbarment or termination of employment, may be taken against a prosecutor.
Ethics of Prosecutorial Discretion
The exercise of discretion by prosecutors is an essential part of the criminal justice system. The prosecution can then decide which matters to pursue and how to approach them. On the other hand, prosecutors face moral quandaries and debates while using their discretion. The following are some of the most important ethical issues that arise with prosecutorial discretion:
Conflicts of Interest And Ethical Violations
Conflicts of interest and ethical infractions are to be avoided at all costs by prosecutors. That might compromise the integrity of our judicial system. For instance, a prosecutor with a financial or emotional stake in a case may be prejudiced. The prosecution must also be careful not to mislead the court with any testimony or evidence presented. They should not hide evidence that may clear the accused.
Use of Discretion In Charging Decisions
Prosecutors have leeway in deciding what charges to bring against a defendant. The case’s resolution may hinge in large part on this decision. The prosecutor’s ethical standing might be called into question if he or she were to seek charges that were harsher than the evidence suggested.
Use of Discretion In Plea Bargaining
In the criminal court system, it is not uncommon for defendants and their attorneys to negotiate a plea agreement. Offenders can enter guilty pleas to lower charges in return for less severe punishment. When it comes to plea negotiating, prosecutors have a lot of leeways. This authority might be used to coerce offenders into agreeing to plea agreements. The use of coercion or misinformation by the prosecution to get a plea bargain raises ethical questions. If they offer lower penalties in return for false testimony, it raises ethical difficulties as well.
Use of Discretion In Sentencing Recommendations
The prosecutor has the option of suggesting a punishment once a defendant has been found guilty. This suggestion may have a major impact on the defendant’s sentencing. If prosecutors are to make ethical sentence recommendations, they must exercise their discretion. They should not ask for longer prison terms than are necessary.
Impact of Prosecutorial Discretion on the Criminal Justice System
Prosecutors hold a lot of sway in the American criminal justice system. The prosecutor has the option to use this power. Such leeway can be used for the common benefit, but it also has the potential to be exploited, which can cause inequalities in the criminal justice system.
Disparities In Charging, Plea Bargaining, And Sentencing
Disparities in charge, plea bargaining, and sentence are a major concern when prosecutors are given wide leeway in these matters. It is the prosecutor’s discretion to select who will be charged with a crime. They can also suggest charges and penalties.
There is evidence that prosecutors are more likely to file charges against and get convictions for individuals of color. In most cases, they advocate for tougher punishments for convicted criminals.
Impact on Vulnerable Populations
In some cases, marginalized people are disproportionately affected by prosecutorial discretion. Those experiencing homelessness, mental illness, or substance abuse are all prime examples. Prosecutors may be more eager to press charges and seek severe punishments for these people. Instead of locking them up, they may benefit more from therapy for issues like depression or drug usage. This can prevent people from getting the assistance they need, instead keeping them entangled in the criminal court system.
Impact on Public Perception Of The Justice System
The misuse or abuse of prosecutorial discretion can also damage the public’s view of the criminal justice system. Those who have reason to feel the system is slanted or rigged may be less likely to put their faith in it. In the worst case, this might cause trust between police and the public to completely break down. The ramifications of it for public safety could be enormous.
Critiques of Prosecutorial Discretion
Prosecutorial discretion gives prosecutors a great deal of power in the criminal justice system. While this power can be used for good, it can also be abused, leading to disparities and injustices. In recent years, there has been growing criticism of prosecutorial discretion and calls for reform.
Arguments Against Unchecked Prosecutorial Power
One of the main arguments against prosecutorial discretion is that it gives too much power to prosecutors. Critics argue that prosecutors have too much leeway to make decisions without oversight. That can lead to abuses of power. They also argue that this power can lead to disparities in the criminal justice system, particularly when it comes to charging and sentencing.
Calls For Reform
There have been increasing calls for reform of prosecutorial discretion in recent years. Some advocates argue that there needs to be more oversight of prosecutors. It needs to ensure that they are making fair and just decisions. Others argue that there needs to be more transparency in the criminal justice system. As a result, individuals can better understand the decisions that are being made.
Examples of Successful Reform Efforts
There have been some successful efforts to reform prosecutorial discretion in recent years. For example, some states have passed laws requiring prosecutors to disclose more information about their charging and plea bargaining decisions. Other states have created conviction integrity units that are tasked with reviewing cases to ensure innocent individuals are not wrongfully convicted.
The prosecutor’s discretion is a potent instrument in the criminal justice system. Ethical and responsible use is required. By gaining an awareness of its effects on the criminal justice system and the criticisms leveled against its unrestrained authority, we may better our efforts to create a system that treats all of its citizens fairly. Stronger, more fair communities may be created via initiatives to reform prosecutorial discretion and through more monitoring, openness, and accountability.