“Under the Federal criminal justice system, the prosecutor has wide latitude in determining when, whom, how, and even whether to prosecute for apparent violations of Federal criminal law,” says the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual. “The prosecutor’s broad discretion in such areas as initiating or foregoing prosecutions, selecting or recommending specific charges, and terminating prosecutions by accepting guilty pleas has been recognized on numerous occasions by the courts.” (Chapter 9-27).
Although prosecutors enjoy broad discretion concerning whether and whom to prosecute, there are limits, the Manual says, and consequences for prosecutorial overreach: “Serious, unjustified departures from the principles set forth herein are [to be] followed by such remedial action, including the imposition of disciplinary sanctions, when warranted, as are deemed appropriate.”
(After the execution of Socrates, remorseful Athenians rose up against his three prosecutors, according to the uncorroborated account of Diogenes Laertius. Meletus was stoned to death, while Anytus and Lycon were banished.)
The exercise of prosecutorial discretion is discussed in a new report from the Congressional Research Service, which focuses particularly on immigration cases.
The report “addresses the constitutional and other foundations for the doctrine of prosecutorial discretion, as well as the potential ways in which prosecutorial discretion may be exercised in the immigration context.” It also considers “potential constitutional, statutory, and administrative constraints upon the exercise of prosecutorial discretion.”
See Prosecutorial Discretion in Immigration Enforcement: Legal Issues, January 17, 2013.
Some other new and updated CRS products that Congress has not authorized CRS to release to the public include these:
Chemical Facility Security: Issues and Options for the 113th Congress, January 14, 2013
Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons, December 19, 2012
The Protection of Classified Information: The Legal Framework, January 10, 2013
Crisis in Mali, January 14, 2013