How Does A Prosecutor Decide Whether Or Not To File Charges?
You may recall that the prosecution, the prosecuting authority, has the burden in a criminal case to prove that each and every element of the criminal charge to beyond and to the exclusion of all and any reasonable doubt. If he or she reviews a police report or meets with a detective and gets information about the criminal charge or criminal act, they may decide at that point that there is not enough evidence to support a conviction. If they believe that they do not have enough evidence, maybe they do not have enough eye witness evidence, or finger prints, or lack DNA evidence, they may determine that there is enough probably cause to justify a criminal arrest, however there is not enough evidence to succeed at a jury trial – not enough evidence to determine a likelihood of successfulness of prosecution. If the prosecution authority does not believe that they have enough evidence, they may not file the criminal charge. It does not mean that the arrest was not justified, because remember, for an arrest, there needs to only be probably cause. For a civil case, it is a preponderance of the evidence. In a criminal case, to get a successful prosecution in a conviction, the prosecutor must have enough evidence to establish that each and every element of that crime can be proved at trial an exclusive reasonable doubt. So many times, a prosecutor will get in many cases after an arrest, but decide only to prosecute or file a small percentage of those cases because he or she may not have enough evidence to be successful at trial. So that’s the difference. So once you’re arrested, the prosecution must decide if there is enough evidence in your case to warrant a successful prosecution.
The criminal defense attorneys at Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Hayslett, P.A. are fighting for our clients rights in criminal defense cases in Clearwater, Tampa, Bradenton, Spring Hill, Pinellas, Pasco, New Port Richey, Manatee, Hillsborough and Hernando Counties in Florida.
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Kevin Hayslett, Esq.
J. Kevin Hayslett is an attorney practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and DUI Defense from the Clearwater office and Hillsborough office. Kevin is an avid tennis player and is currently nationally rated in singles and doubles. You can follow Kevin on Google+, or on Radio IO on his show, "Kevin's Law". Kevin can also be heard on the Sirius Satellite Radio show during the "Ask the Lawyer" segment, which can be heard the first Thursday of every month.