(1) Decision not to prosecute.
STANDARD: A prosecuting attorney may decline to prosecute, even though technically sufficient evidence to prosecute exists, in situations where prosecution would serve no public purpose, would defeat the underlying purpose of the law in question or would result in decreased respect for the law.
The following are examples of reasons not to prosecute which could satisfy the standard.
(a) Contrary to Legislative Intent - It may be proper to decline to charge where the application of criminal sanctions would be clearly contrary to the intent of the legislature in enacting the particular statute.
(b) Antiquated Statute - It may be proper to decline to charge where the statute in question is antiquated in that:
(i) It has not been enforced for many years; and
(ii) Most members of society act as if it were no longer in existence; and
(iii) It serves no deterrent or protective purpose in today's society; and
(iv) The statute has not been recently reconsidered by the legislature.
This reason is not to be construed as the basis for declining cases because the law in question is unpopular or because it is difficult to enforce.
(c) De Minimis Violation - It may be proper to decline to charge where the violation of law is only technical or insubstantial and where no public interest or deterrent purpose would be served by prosecution.
(d) Confinement on Other Charges - It may be proper to decline to charge because the accused has been sentenced on another charge to a lengthy period of confinement; and
(i) Conviction of the new offense would not merit any additional direct or collateral punishment;
(ii) The new offense is either a misdemeanor or a felony which is not particularly aggravated; and
(iii) Conviction of the new offense would not serve any significant deterrent purpose.
(e) Pending Conviction on Another Charge - It may be proper to decline to charge because the accused is facing a pending prosecution in the same or another county; and
(i) Conviction of the new offense would not merit any additional direct or collateral punishment;
(ii) Conviction in the pending prosecution is imminent;
(iii) The new offense is either a misdemeanor or a felony which is not particularly aggravated; and
(iv) Conviction of the new offense would not serve any significant deterrent purpose.
(f) High Disproportionate Cost of Prosecution - It may be proper to decline to charge where the cost of locating or transporting, or the burden on, prosecution witnesses is highly disproportionate to the importance of prosecuting the offense in question. This reason should be limited to minor cases and should not be relied upon in serious cases.
(g) Improper Motives of Complainant - It may be proper to decline charges because the motives of the complainant are improper and prosecution would serve no public purpose, would defeat the underlying purpose of the law in question or would result in decreased respect for the law.
(h) Immunity - It may be proper to decline to charge where immunity is to be given to an accused in order to prosecute another where the accused's information or testimony will reasonably lead to the conviction of others who are responsible for more serious criminal conduct or who represent a greater danger to the public interest.
(i) Victim Request - It may be proper to decline to charge because the victim requests that no criminal charges be filed and the case involves the following crimes or situations:
(i) Assault cases where the victim has suffered little or no injury;
(ii) Crimes against property, not involving violence, where no major loss was suffered;
(iii) Where doing so would not jeopardize the safety of society.
Care should be taken to insure that the victim's request is freely made and is not the product of threats or pressure by the accused.
The presence of these factors may also justify the decision to dismiss a prosecution which has been commenced.
The prosecutor is encouraged to notify the victim, when practical, and the law enforcement personnel, of the decision not to prosecute.
(2) Decision to prosecute.
Crimes against persons will be filed if sufficient admissible evidence exists, which, when considered with the most plausible, reasonably foreseeable defense that could be raised under the evidence, would justify conviction by a reasonable and objective fact-finder. With regard to offenses prohibited by RCW 9A.44.040, 9A.44.050, 9A.44.073, 9A.44.076, 9A.44.079, 9A.44.083, 9A.44.086, 9A.44.089, and 9A.64.020 the prosecutor should avoid prefiling agreements or diversions intended to place the accused in a program of treatment or counseling, so that treatment, if determined to be beneficial, can be provided pursuant to RCW 9.94A.670.
Crimes against property/other crimes will be filed if the admissible evidence is of such convincing force as to make it probable that a reasonable and objective fact-finder would convict after hearing all the admissible evidence and the most plausible defense that could be raised.
See table below for the crimes within these categories.
CATEGORIZATION OF CRIMES FOR PROSECUTING STANDARDS
CRIMES AGAINST PERSONS
1st Degree Murder
2nd Degree Murder
1st Degree Manslaughter
2nd Degree Manslaughter
1st Degree Kidnapping
2nd Degree Kidnapping
1st Degree Assault
2nd Degree Assault
3rd Degree Assault
1st Degree Assault of a Child
2nd Degree Assault of a Child
3rd Degree Assault of a Child
1st Degree Rape
2nd Degree Rape
3rd Degree Rape
1st Degree Rape of a Child
2nd Degree Rape of a Child
3rd Degree Rape of a Child
1st Degree Robbery
2nd Degree Robbery
1st Degree Arson
1st Degree Burglary
1st Degree Identity Theft
2nd Degree Identity Theft
1st Degree Extortion
2nd Degree Extortion
1st Degree Child Molestation
2nd Degree Child Molestation
3rd Degree Child Molestation
1st Degree Promoting Prostitution
Intimidating a Juror
Communication with a Minor
Intimidating a Witness
Intimidating a Public Servant
Bomb Threat (if against person)
Promoting a Suicide Attempt
Riot (if against person)
Domestic Violence Court Order Violation (RCW 10.99.040, 10.99.050, 26.09.300, 26.10.220, 26.26.138, 26.50.110, 26.52.070, or 74.34.145)
Counterfeiting (if a violation of RCW 9.16.035(4))
Felony Driving a Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence of Intoxicating Liquor or Any Drug (RCW 46.61.502(6))
Felony Physical Control of a Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence of Intoxicating Liquor or Any Drug (RCW 46.61.504(6))
CRIMES AGAINST PROPERTY/OTHER CRIMES
2nd Degree Arson
1st Degree Escape
2nd Degree Escape
2nd Degree Burglary
1st Degree Theft
2nd Degree Theft
1st Degree Perjury
2nd Degree Perjury
1st Degree Introducing Contraband
2nd Degree Introducing Contraband
1st Degree Possession of Stolen Property
2nd Degree Possession of Stolen Property
Bribing a Witness
Bribe received by a Witness
Bomb Threat (if against property)
1st Degree Malicious Mischief
2nd Degree Malicious Mischief
1st Degree Reckless Burning
Taking a Motor Vehicle without Authorization
2nd Degree Promoting Prostitution
Tampering with a Witness
Trading in Public Office
Trading in Special Influence
Receiving/Granting Unlawful Compensation
Eluding a Pursuing Police Vehicle
Willful Failure to Return from Furlough
Escape from Community Custody
Riot (if against property)
1st Degree Theft of Livestock
2nd Degree Theft of Livestock
ALL OTHER UNCLASSIFIED FELONIES
Selection of Charges/Degree of Charge
(i) The prosecutor should file charges which adequately describe the nature of defendant's conduct. Other offenses may be charged only if they are necessary to ensure that the charges:
(A) Will significantly enhance the strength of the state's case at trial; or
(B) Will result in restitution to all victims.
(ii) The prosecutor should not overcharge to obtain a guilty plea. Overcharging includes:
(A) Charging a higher degree;
(B) Charging additional counts.
This standard is intended to direct prosecutors to charge those crimes which demonstrate the nature and seriousness of a defendant's criminal conduct, but to decline to charge crimes which are not necessary to such an indication. Crimes which do not merge as a matter of law, but which arise from the same course of conduct, do not all have to be charged.
(i) Police Investigation
A prosecuting attorney is dependent upon law enforcement agencies to conduct the necessary factual investigation which must precede the decision to prosecute. The prosecuting attorney shall ensure that a thorough factual investigation has been conducted before a decision to prosecute is made. In ordinary circumstances the investigation should include the following:
(A) The interviewing of all material witnesses, together with the obtaining of written statements whenever possible;
(B) The completion of necessary laboratory tests; and
(C) The obtaining, in accordance with constitutional requirements, of the suspect's version of the events.
If the initial investigation is incomplete, a prosecuting attorney should insist upon further investigation before a decision to prosecute is made, and specify what the investigation needs to include.
In certain situations, a prosecuting attorney may authorize filing of a criminal complaint before the investigation is complete if:
(A) Probable cause exists to believe the suspect is guilty; and
(B) The suspect presents a danger to the community or is likely to flee if not apprehended; or
(C) The arrest of the suspect is necessary to complete the investigation of the crime.
In the event that the exception to the standard is applied, the prosecuting attorney shall obtain a commitment from the law enforcement agency involved to complete the investigation in a timely manner. If the subsequent investigation does not produce sufficient evidence to meet the normal charging standard, the complaint should be dismissed.
(iii) Investigation Techniques
The prosecutor should be fully advised of the investigatory techniques that were used in the case investigation including:
(A) Polygraph testing;
(C) Electronic surveillance;
(D) Use of informants.
(iv) Pre-Filing Discussions with Defendant
Discussions with the defendant or his/her representative regarding the selection or disposition of charges may occur prior to the filing of charges, and potential agreements can be reached.
(v) Pre-Filing Discussions with Victim(s)
Discussions with the victim(s) or victims' representatives regarding the selection or disposition of charges may occur before the filing of charges. The discussions may be considered by the prosecutor in charging and disposition decisions, and should be considered before reaching any agreement with the defendant regarding these decisions.
[2006 c 271 § 1; 2006 c 73 § 13. Prior: 2000 c 119 § 28; 2000 c 28 § 17; prior: 1999 c 322 § 6; 1999 c 196 § 11; 1996 c 93 § 2; 1995 c 288 § 3; prior: 1992 c 145 § 11; 1992 c 75 § 5; 1989 c 332 § 2; 1988 c 145 § 13; 1986 c 257 § 30; 1983 c 115 § 15. Formerly RCW 9.94A.440.]
Reviser's note: This section was amended by 2006 c 73 § 13 and by 2006 c 271 § 1, each without reference to the other. Both amendments are incorporated in the publication of this section under RCW 1.12.025(2). For rule of construction, see RCW 1.12.025(1).
Effective date -- 2006 c 73: See note following RCW 46.61.502.
Application -- 2000 c 119: See note following RCW 26.50.021.
Technical correction bill--02000 c 28: See note following RCW 9.94A.015.
Construction -- Short title -- 1999 c 196: See RCW 72.09.904 and 72.09.905.
Severability -- 1999 c 196: See note following RCW 9.94A.010.
Effective date -- Savings -- Application -- 1988 c 145: See notes following RCW 9A.44.010.
Severability -- 1986 c 257: See note following RCW 9A.56.010.
Effective date -- 1986 c 257 §§ 17-035: See note following RCW 9.94A.030.