If you have recently been arrested in the State of Nebraska and are awaiting a decision by the prosecutor’s office to find out if official charges will be filed against you it is likely you have lots of questions. One of the questions you may have is “ How does the prosecutor decide which cases to pursue? ” While a simple, universally applicable, answer to that question does not exist, a better understanding of the charging process and the factors that typically go into deciding which cases to pursue might be helpful.
When you are arrested the law enforcement officer who made the arrest will take you to jail where you will be held on “preliminary charges” or “pending charges” for one or more criminal offenses. The arresting officer is then required to prepare a written report detailing the arrest and providing a summary of the reason for the arrest. That report is then turned over to the prosecuting attorney’s office. Depending on the size of the prosecutor’s office there may be a division of deputy prosecuting attorneys or just one person who is in charge of screening initial arrest reports for the purpose of making charging decisions. While practices will vary, in mid-size to large cities it is common for someone other than the actual elected Prosecutor to make charging decisions for less serious offenses such as misdemeanors and even less serious felonies.
For less serious offenses the decision to charge or not may be made based solely on the arrest report. If the crime involves an alleged victim, an attempt may be made to contact the victim to determine the victim’s wishes before deciding whether or not to officially charge the arrestee. For more serious offenses the charging decision is not usually made without some degree of investigation. Ideally, the investigation phase is conducted prior to making an arrest. In that case, the individual has usually already been officially charged with a crime and an arrest warrant issued by a judge or magistrate. Sometimes though, an arrest is made on the spot and the investigation phase must follow. In that case, law enforcement officers will gather as much evidence and information as possible in a relatively short period of time (48 hours or less in most cases) and present it to the prosecuting attorney. Based on that evidence and information the prosecuting attorney will make a decision whether or not to charge the suspect, and if charges are filed what those charges will be. Of course, additional charges can be added at a later date if additional evidence if uncovered just as preliminary charges can be dropped if the evidence gathered does not support those charges.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Nebraska, or a loved one has been arrested and you are awaiting word as to what charges will be filed, contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.