What Role Do The Police Or Law Enforcement Play In The Prosecution Of A Criminal Case In Los Angeles?
The main role that the police play in a criminal case in LA courts is that they are usually most impactful and powerful when it comes to investigating cases because usually the prosecutors have not been involved yet, so, it’s up to the police to ferret out crime, to arrest people, get them into court, file the paperwork so the prosecutors can review the file and decide whether to file criminal charges. Now there are exceptions to this rule. I’ve seen cases where prosecutors get involved early with the police – in sex crime cases, murder cases and other cases that are more complicated where an attorney’s brain is going to be necessarily to properly try to investigate the case so it can be filed successfully and prosecuted in a jury trial if necessary, so that’s when the prosecutors might get involved as far as pre-filing of a criminal case at the investigative state
Once the case if filed though, the police have limited power. Now the prosecutors who are attorneys are going to decide exactly what charges are going to be filed. Sometimes the police get a case. They book somebody for a bunch of charges. The prosecutors look at it and go, you know, we can’t prove some of these charges. We’re not filing them. Or, I’ve seen the opposite happen. The police book somebody for something and the police were actually nice and really didn’t book them for anything that bad.
I had a case the other day where a guy gets booked for assault with a deadly weapon. He ran somebody over with his car. The prosecutors looked at that and looked at the witness statements. There were no charges for assault with a deadly weapon. He’s getting attempted with attempted murder. He tried to kill the guy. That’s not a good situation. So, the police don’t always get it right and again, they have limited power once the case hits the courtroom because the prosecutors are going to call the shots.
A detective on a criminal case is going to be told what to do, what to investigate by the prosecutors because again, there’re the brains of the operation. They’re the ones who have gone to law school. They know what it takes to prove a criminal case. They know how to win it. They know what evidence they need. They know what objections are going to be made. They know what rulings a judge might make and they know what evidence they are going to need the police to gather in order to prosecute a criminal case. So, the police usually aren’t used at all in a criminal case once it’s filed. They may be called as witnesses if there is a trial or a preliminary hearing to testify to what they saw, what witnesses told them, what evidence they collected. Probably the most useful law enforcement figure once a case is filed in the lead detective on a felony case. That person is in charge of all the evidence, helps the DA get familiar with the evidence, assists the DA during a preliminary hearing or trial, turns over evidence, gets videotape evidence if there’s evidence that’s out there, goes to do follow-up interviews with witnesses if necessary, goes to find other evidence or goes to find other witnesses. So, at that point, the DA and the detective work hand-in-hand to try to prosecute somebody in a federal case and it’s the same thing in a misdemeanor case. The City Attorney and the police work hand-in-hand. That’s why whenever you see a case filed against a defendant and the police officers are victims, the prosecutors are much tougher on those cases because they deal with the police all the time.
So, the police are very important in the criminal system, but they’re more important and they have more influence when it comes to the investigative phase before charges are filed. Once charges are filed, the police lose a lot of power and the power is in the hands of the prosecutors to decide what plea bargains to offer, what charges to file, whether the person is going to jail, whether the person is going to prison, what witnesses to call, what evidence to look for. So, the prosecutors and the police do work hand-in-hand in these criminal cases, but ultimately, in the end, the prosecutors have the final say once they take charge of a criminal case in Los Angeles.
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