Prosecutors are the guardians of the criminal legal system, responsible for deciding whether to prosecute and what to charge. Their decisions have had a major impact on the expansion of imprisonment in response to social ills in recent decades. In criminal cases, prosecutors must represent not only the interests of society in general, but also those of victims of crime. They also have obligations to other people, including suspects and witnesses. Prosecutors have nearly unlimited power to make the most important decisions in a criminal case from start to finish.
They must develop policies and procedures to address any information they receive and take measures that are consistent with applicable law and regulations and with the duty to seek justice. Even if the law doesn't require it, prosecutors should consider counseling a witness if they reasonably believe that the witness can provide self-incriminating information and if the witness appears to be unaware of their rights. The decision not to file criminal charges should be made on the merits and not for the purpose of obtaining a civil exemption. Prosecutors can provide independent legal advice to law enforcement agencies on actions in specific criminal matters and on police practices in general. They must be aware of the relevant laws and regulations on the rights of victims and facilitate their participation in the sentencing process, as required or permitted by law.
In addition, prosecutors must correct any statement of a material fact or of law that they reasonably believe to be false, or later discover that it was false, and must disclose one or more material facts when necessary to avoid facilitating a fraudulent or criminal act or to mislead the judge or investigator. When presenting a matter before a criminal grand jury, prosecutors must respect its independence and must not take precedence over its function, mislead it, or abuse its processes. The prosecution is also responsible for helping the community address problems that lead to, or are the result of, criminal activities or perceived defects in the criminal justice system. Prosecutors play an essential role in ensuring that justice is served. They are responsible for making difficult decisions that have far-reaching consequences for society as a whole. By understanding their responsibilities and exercising their power judiciously, prosecutors can help ensure that justice is served fairly and equitably.