If you are accused of committing a crime, it is up to a prosecutor to decide whether to file misdemeanor charges or to ask a grand jury to indict you for a felony. Prosecutors work for the government. They may represent a county, city, state, or the federal government. To convict you for a crime, the prosecutor must prove you committed each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The greater the likelihood of winning a criminal case against you, the more likely it is that a prosecutor will pursue charges. The weaker the evidence, the less likely a prosecutor is to pursue a criminal case. They do not have the time or resources to fight cases they are unlikely to win. They also do not want to tarnish their track record of success.
Given that many factors go into whether or not a prosecutor files charges, you should speak with a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer as soon as you know you are under suspicion or are under investigation.
How Los Angeles Prosecutors Decide to File Charges in a Criminal Case
When determining whether or not to pursue criminal charges, prosecutors will analyze:
A significant factor in deciding whether to file charges is the amount of evidence against you and the strength of that evidence. The more evidence there is against you, the better the situation is for the prosecutor. However, the type of evidence and its weight also matters. A great deal of circumstantial evidence, which relies on jurors making various assumptions, is not as strong as direct evidence of you committing the crime. Using their knowledge of California criminal law and their experience, the prosecutor will determine whether they have enough evidence to convince a jury you committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Credibility of Witnesses and Victims
A part of analyzing the evidence is reviewing the testimony of the alleged victim(s) and witness(es). How credible are these individuals? Prosecutors have to determine how likely jurors are to believe each victim or witness. The less trustworthy or sympathetic a victim or witness appears, the less likely the juror is to believe their testimony. When a prosecutor believes a witness or victim may not be credible, then their testimony may be considered weak evidence.
The Circumstances Surrounding the Accusations or Arrest
At some point, the criminal matter has to come to the prosecutor’s attention. This may stem from an arrest or due to a law enforcement investigation. Then, the prosecutor closely reviews the current information, including the alleged criminal conduct, the environment where it occurred, and any other relevant factors that make the situation worse or better. For example, there is a difference between a first-time offender accused of possessing a small amount of cocaine versus someone with a criminal history being accused of possessing a large quantity of cocaine that is packaged for distribution.
The Possibility of a Plea Bargain
After reviewing the evidence and circumstances surrounding a case, the prosecutor will have an educated opinion on whether they can win the criminal case or not. However, winning at trial is not always the end goal. Prosecutors do not want every case to go to trial. Neither they nor the courts have time for this.
In many cases, prosecutors are hoping that a defendant will accept a plea bargain. You agree to plead guilty in exchange for a pre-determined penalty, which is often lighter than the maximum penalty you could be sentenced to by the judge. A prosecutor may bring a case that will be tough to prove at trial if they believe it is likely they can pressure you into accepting a plea.
Current Political Pressures
In Los Angeles County, a nonpartisan district attorney is elected as chief prosecutor every four years. They are responsible for running the District Attorney’s Office. Assistant district attorneys also staff this office. Because chief prosecutors are elected, and because they influence how the office handles cases, prosecutors are susceptible to political pressures and agendas. The current political climate can influence whether charges are brought against you or not.
Talk to a Criminal Defense Lawyer About Potential Charges
If you have been arrested or know you are under investigation for a crime, you should call an experienced criminal defense lawyer or staff member to discuss the possibility of a criminal case. An attorney from Spolin Law P.C. can protect your rights during an investigation and reduce the risk of facing charges. Also, if a prosecutor chooses to pursue charges, then you have an attorney ready to defend you in court.