Factors Influencing a Prosecutor’s Decision to Prosecute

The procedure of filing a criminal case in Florida consists of a few steps. The first step is an arrest which can take place on the basis of a reasonable suspicion of a law enforcement officer. The arrest must be followed by a detailed report of the police officer describing the circumstances of the arrest. The report is then reviewed by a prosecutor who decides whether the arrested suspect must be charged with a crime or not.

The prosecutor also has an alternative to approach a grand jury to seek their decision on what type of criminal charges must be filed against the suspect. This is known as an indictment. Thereafter, a judge will hold a preliminary hearing to decide whether there is sufficient evidence against the suspect to proceed.

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Police Report of Arrest

Once an arrest has been made, the police must make an arrest report before the suspect is charged with a crime. This report is required to be sent to the prosecutor. The report includes a summary of the events that led to the arrest and other details such as the time, date and location of the arrest, and list of witnesses, if any. The prosecutor, upon reviewing the report, will have to decide whether to pursue the case with the trial court, or to drop the case.

To pursue the case, the prosecutor will make a filing to the trial court to establish the criminal charges. Or, he or she may present the evidence before a grand jury to ask them what charges, if any, may be brought. The prosecutor also has sufficient discretion regarding electing not to pursue the matter.

Factors Affecting the Decision to Prosecute

Prosecutors usually have adequate discretion to decide whether to press criminal charges against the defendant, and the type of charges. The following factors may affect the decision of the prosecutor in many cases:

Policies of the Prosecution Office
Prosecution offices usually have a policy regarding the type of crimes they wish to prosecute. Different offices may attach a different level of importance to certain types of crimes within the realm of the law.

Personal Sense of Justice
Prosecutors are human beings, and they may have personal notions, ideas, and beliefs about right and wrong, just like anyone else. In some cases, the prosecutor’s personal sense of justice may push him or her to pursue a case more or less aggressively. This is where there could be a conflict of interest or some irrational bias only known to them. They are supposed to remain neutral in terms of emotion.

Political Compulsions
A prosecutor may have political ambitions, which may sometimes affect the decision to pursue a case or not. If the evidence in a particular case is questionable, but the public perception is strongly in favor of pressing criminal charges, the prosecutor may feel politically compelled to pursue the case.