A conversation brought to light some confusion surrounding criminal charges. Often times the question is asked, “Would you like to press charges?” This question, while insightful, is not determinative as to whether charges are brought.
What the officer or the prosecutor is essentially asking is, “would you be corporative in assisting the State if the prosecutor decides that bringing charges is appropriate?”
When deciding to bring charges the ultimate decision maker is the prosecutor. When doing so, one major consideration is whether the prosecutor would be able to prove each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors are ethically bound to only pursue charges when they, in good faith, believe that the evidence is sufficient to find the suspect guilty of the charged offense.
There are a number of other considerations when deciding whether to charge a suspect including the victim’s cooperativeness, the credibility of witnesses and even the publicity surrounding the crime.
The prosecutor has quite a large amount of discretion in deciding to bring charges and when charges are filed the decision to do so is likely based on a number of reasons.