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How Prosecutors Decide to File Charges

Published: Sep 14, 2018 in Criminal Defense

When you are arrested or accused of a crime, criminal charges are not automatically filed. There is a human element involved: the prosecutor. A prosecutor’s job is to bring criminal charges on behalf of the government, be that a city, county, state, or the federal government. It is important to note, however, that prosecutors do not bring criminal charges every time someone is accused of an offense; they have prosecutorial discretion. The criminal court system could not handle such a high caseload if prosecutors decided to file charges every single time someone committed a crime.

Given the factors surrounding a prosecutor and their discretion to file charges, when you are arrested or investigated for a crime, you should speak with a Houston criminal defense lawyer about whether or not you may face charges. To schedule a free and confidential consultation of your case, contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767.

Reviewing the Circumstances of the Arrest or Accusations

Once your situation comes to the prosecutor’s attention, they will review the circumstances. The prosecutor will closely examine your alleged conduct, the environment in which it occurred, and any other mitigating or aggravating factors. For instance, how a prosecutor views a shoving match between two 21-year-old college students outside of a dorm may be different than how they view a fist fight between two older adults outside a busy restaurant. Both situations could lead to assault charges; however, a prosecutor may be willing to go easier on the younger individuals.

Analyzing the Amount and Strength of the Evidence

In addition to reviewing the circumstances that led to your arrest or an investigation into whether you committed a crime, a prosecutor will take a hard look at the evidence available and how strong it is. In order for a judge or jury to find you guilty, prosecutors are required to prove you committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, you may have been arrested for a DWI. The prosecutor will review the police report regarding why you were stopped, how the officer determined you may have been intoxicated, and the results of any chemical tests. The prosecutor will look to see if the evidence supports you were impaired at the time of the stop or not.

Prosecutors have been known to bring weak cases. This is because they assume they can get many defendants to accept plea bargains for reduced sentences instead of fighting the charges in court. If you have been charged, never assume this means the prosecutor has a strong case or that you will be found guilty. It is always best to talk with a criminal defense lawyer and discuss the strength of the charges and your defense before you decide what to do next.

Determining the Credibility of the Alleged Victim

Many criminal charges heavily rely on the alleged victim’s testimony. This is often true in sexual assault cases. For a prosecutor to meet their burden of proving you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, they may need the alleged victim to testify in court. Jurors are like anyone else; they can judge a person’s character harshly and be skeptical about their accusations. Prosecutors need an alleged victim to be believed and trusted. Prosecutors also know that the defense attorney will dive into the alleged victim’s past, particularly in a sex crimes case. The defense will do everything they can to discredit a witness. If the prosecutor knows there will be credibility issues with the alleged victim, it may make them hesitant to file charges.

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help

After an arrest, you should contact an attorney at The Law Offices of Ned Barnett. Prosecutors consider several factors when deciding to bring misdemeanor charges or seek a grand jury indictment for a felony. There is often room for your criminal defense lawyer to argue that charges should not be filed or that charges should be reduced. However, it is impossible to know whether a prosecutor would be willing to drop or reduce charges without an experienced attorney’s opinion, which is why it is essential you contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

To discuss your case, contact us online, or call (713) 222-6767 to schedule your free consultation.