In general, the prosecutor’s office receives its cases from the various police departments within its jurisdiction. The police receive a complaint from a citizen and are put into action to investigate. Sometimes it requires an immediate response, such as an armed robbery in progress. Other times a citizen may report an incident that occurred months or even years ago. Nevertheless, an officer or detective will investigate the complaint. This may include collecting evidence at the scene, taking photographs, and interviewing various witnesses. The investigation may also include attempts to interview the alleged perpetrator. Once this data is compiled, it is forwarded to the prosecutor’s office for review.
Usually, this packet of data is the prosecutor’s office’s first exposure to the alleged crime. The prosecutor eyes this case with the obligation of seeking the truth and the mindset of being able to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. On one end of the spectrum, the prosecutor authorizes the charges. On the other end, the request is denied. In between these two extremes lies a gray area that affords a prosecutor a great deal of discretion.
It is possible for a prosecutor to authorize on charges other than those requested by the police. As attorneys, prosecutors are legally trained to know the elements of each crime and can assess if they can prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. There are times when a prosecutor wants more information before making a decision. This could include having the police re-interview a witness for clarification, interview additional witnesses, or have certain tests conducted on evidence.
The county prosecutor is an elected official. Most likely they made campaign promises to be extremely tough on certain types of crimes. As a result, they may take a tougher stance on a particular crime than another prosecutor would in another jurisdiction. Additionally, there are other factors that come into the decision making process such as media attention, political pressure, community pressure, or pressure from the victim. Prosecutors fear bad press and are conscious of what the local papers report on their actions.
It is worth noting that the alleged perpetrator has little or no input into the prosecutor’s decision making process. Most people are of the mindset when contacted by the police that the police will believe their version and the case will go away…not true. No matter what statements you make to the police, they will be presented to the prosecutor and could be used against you in court. This is why you need to contact an attorney right away when you feel the police are investigating you. At Kronzek and Cronkright, we go to bat for you immediately and act as an intermediary. Depending on the case, it may be prudent to present evidence on your behalf to give the prosecutor a fuller picture of what they are examining. Prosecutors have an obligation to seek the truth. Thus, when presented with evidence that is contrary to what they initially thought, they are obligated take the proper action. This could mean a reduction of the charge or even a full dismissal.
As a former police officer and assistant prosecutor, I am aware of the various factors that go into the decision making process. I have a strong desire to see that your rights are protected and not lost in the mix. My involvement in your case at the earliest possible stage ensures that your interests are represented. Furthermore, you are assured your side will be presented when it is most advantageous to your case.
Mr. Gammicchia is a Criminal Defense Attorney with Kronzek & Cronkright. He is a former Oakland County assistant prosecutor, and focuses on Criminal Defense matters.