The U.S. system of government and criminal justice system place certain authority and responsibility upon the law enforcement officer, the prosecutor, and the judge. Each individual has various degrees of discretion that can be exercised in performing duties at different times during each stage of a criminal procedure. The exercise of discretion can have a tremendous impact on the manner in which a criminal case is investigated, prosecuted, or sentenced.

Part 1: Provide concrete examples of when and how each of these officials of the criminal justice system (law enforcement officer, the prosecutor, and the judge) may appropriately exercise discretion at the six stages of criminal procedure:

  • The investigation stage
  • The arrest stage
  • The pretrial stage
  • The trial stage
  • The appeal stage
  • The serving the sentence stage

Remember that one or more of these officials will have little or no involvement in all six stages of criminal procedure; however, for each stage, indicate which official has the power to exercise discretion and how that discretion can be legitimately exercised by that official.

Part 2: Then, suggest guidelines that are now, or that could legitimately be, imposed by law to limit the arbitrary use of each official’s power of discretion. Provide support or examples for each of the guidelines that you have suggested.


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