Effective and Fair Prosecution
Over the last forty years, there has been a dramatic transformation and expansion of prosecutors’ mission, to not only vigorously prosecute criminal cases, but also to engage in crime prevention, problem solving and community partnerships. Prosecutors’ fundamental goals are to protect the community and ensure justice when enforcing the law. Traditionally, a prosecutor’s role was a limited and relatively passive one – to evaluate and prosecute arrests made by the police. That role has expanded and evolved significantly. The shift is driven by the need for more complex solutions that not only seek positive outcomes for victims, but also strive for long-term solutions for preventing crime and assisting those who are entangled in the criminal justice system.
Prosecutors are uniquely situated to be effective in carrying out these new initiatives. They play a pivotal role in the criminal justice system, making decisions and exercising discretion about whether to prosecute, whom to prosecute, and how to prosecute. Also, as leaders in law enforcement, prosecutors can work with the police and other partners to improve community relationships and to build trust in the criminal justice system.
Nevada District Attorneys have embraced this transformation, committing themselves to transparency and equity in the legal system. They strive to lead in the evolution of the justice system. Nevada’s Prosecutors – Innovative Programs – National Prosecutors Consortium, August 2019. Citing in part, Catherine M. Coles, Evolving Strategies in 20th – Century American Prosecution, in The Changing Role of the American Prosecutor, 182-187 (John L. Worrall & M. Elaine Nugent-Borakov, eds., 2008).
A cornerstone in building trust with the communities we serve is operating at the highest possible levels of transparency. A fortunate starting point in this regard is that the vast majority of what happens in the criminal justice system is open to the public; court hearings, documents, and decisions, are largely publicly available at all stages of a case. Nevertheless, Nevada District Attorneys strive to do more.
Nevada District Attorneys work with the media to help provide information in a way that encourages public participation. Some DA offices have Public Information Officers and others work with the media themselves. In communicating information to the public, all commit to adherence to ethical obligations that protect a defendant’s right to a fair trial and protecting the integrity of investigations. Moreover, Nevada District Attorneys frequently speak to local organizations where meaningful Q & A sessions about D.A.’s Offices can occur. Additionally, Nevada District Attorneys regularly publish reports on topics of public interest such as legal determinations on Officer Involved Shootings.
Honesty, Equality and Fairness
A prosecutor “is the representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all; and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done. As such, he is in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer. He may prosecute with earnestness and vigor – indeed, he should do so. But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as much his duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one.”
Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78, 88 (1935)
Nevada District Attorneys core values include honesty, equality, and fairness. These values extend to all facets of our important roles in our state. In charging individuals with a crime, Nevada District Attorneys base their decisions on the law, the evidence, and the interests of justice. Race, gender, sexual orientation, occupation, social status or income level are not factors in this decision-making process.
In carrying out prosecutions, Nevada District Attorneys balance the interests of crime victims, the community, and the defendants. While we work hard to remove dangerous and violent criminals from our communities, we also realize that prison is not the answer for some who are charged with lower-level crimes. Nevada District Attorneys regularly seek probation, or diversion courts, such as Drug Court, Mental Health Court, or Veteran’s Court, as alternatives to incarceration to give defendants an opportunity to become productive members of society.
Although prosecutors do not sentence those convicted, when recommending an appropriate sentence to the judge, Nevada District Attorneys sentencing requests are based on the severity of the crime, the criminal history of the defendant, the impact on the victim, and the interests of justice. Again, race, gender, sexual orientation, occupation, social status or income level are not factors in this decision-making process.
Leadership in the Evolution of the Justice System
Nevada District Attorneys have been leaders in the evolution of the criminal justice system for decades. In this important role, prosecutors focus on improvements that assist crime victims and support public safety. Moreover, Nevada District Attorney’s launch innovative programs that seek to better serve justice in our state. Click here to learn more about a couple of those programs.
Recently, Nevada District Attorneys supported the passage of voter-initiated Nevada constitutional amendment to add enumerated and enforceable constitutional rights for crime victims. Additionally, Nevada District Attorneys serve on numerous statewide commissions that seek to improve Nevada’s criminal justice system, such as, the Nevada Sentencing Commission, Committee to Study Evidence-Based Pretrial Release, Committee to Create Criminal Rules of Procedure, and the Nevada Advisory Commission of the Administration of Justice.