When prosecutors decide to bring a case against a defendant, it is presumably because they believe they have sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction. When prosecutors choose not to prosecute, it is ordinarily because they believe they don’t have enough evidence. That’s pretty straightforward. Prosecutors do have some discretion, though, as far as when they do and do not bring charges.
The public, of course, has an interest in prosecutors going after suspected criminals, but prosecutors don’t always choose to do so, for one reason or another. In some cases, the victim of a crime may request that charges be dropped. In other cases, prosecutors don’t pursue charges because the defendant has a viable defense from the beginning. Prosecutors may choose not to pursue charges in other cases because the defendant takes steps to redress the situation, such as participating in a court-ordered program.
In some cases, the reason prosecutors choose to pursue charges is not clear cut. This is perhaps where discretion comes in. The primary concern for prosecutors when determining whether to bring a case, though, is whether they believe they will be able to meet their burden of proof should the case go to trial. It is the job of a criminal defense attorney to make sure that prosecutors are put to the test in proving their case for each charge.
For defendants, getting an experienced criminal defense attorney involved early on in the case can help ensure that any possibilities for resolving the case in the most efficient manner are explored and given consideration. Early involvement of a criminal defense attorney can also help ensure that a defendant is fully prepared to go to trial, if he or she chooses to do so.