Discretion In Criminal Justice

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Legal Studies Assesment task 1 Discretion is part of all criminal processes, from reporting a crime, and the police deciding which crimes to investigate and which to ignore, to who gets arrested and what charges are decided upon. Decision making in criminal justice involves more than the learning of rules and the application of them to specific cases. Decisions are based on discretion, that is, the individual exercise of judgment to make choices about alternative courses of action. Discretion, or making decisions without formal rules, is common in criminal justice. Discretion comes into play whenever police make choices about whether to arrest, investigate, search, question, or use force. Similarly, prosecutors exercise individual judgment…show more content…
This is true for several reasons. In some circumstances civil penalties may be available. In that instance, the criminal prosecutor must decide whether civil remedies are sufficient in the context of the particular defendant’s actions. If so, then the prosecutor might decide that criminal charges are unwarranted second, where parallel state and federal criminal proceedings can be brought, a prosecutor must decide whether additional criminal punishment for the same conduct is appropriate. A state prosecutor may decide to bring a parallel proceeding if there is no statutory or case law prohibiting such a proceeding. In addition, some federal statutes prohibit a prosecution where the defendant has been tried to a verdict in state court. Also, the prosecutorial agency may have policies governing the issue. For example, the United States Department of Justice has a policy against a successive federal prosecution unless the latter is necessary to vindicate a substantial federal interest. Finally, and most importantly, the nature of white collar statutes often cedes vast discretion to prosecutors. Many of these statutes are at once broad and vague. This problem sometimes arises because many white collar crimes encompass economic regulations that some believe are best left to civil enforcement. Indeed, the United States Supreme Court has noted the difficulty in distinguishing criminal acts from those that fall within the “gray zone of socially acceptable and economically justifiable business conduct.” The phenomenon of extending the criminal law to areas for which it may not be suited is referred to as “overcriminalization.” Because many white collar statutes are broad and vague, the task of defining the particular crime falls in the first
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