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How does the Crown decide to prosecute?

If you're facing criminal charges here in Alberta, you may wonder how the Crown decides to pursue a prosecution or allow a dismissal. Below are some factors that are considered.

Crown prosecutors want winning records, so they are not going to take on cases they are liable to lose. They will examine the applicable laws and case circumstances and weigh those against the cost of prosecution, the public interest and the negative exposure to the citizen being prosecuted. But there is no mathematical formula as to which cases proceed and which fall by the wayside.

The system ostensibly aims to be fair in its prosecution system so the evidence must be sufficient to initiate prosecution. Only then should the Crown prosecutor assess whether the public interest is served best by taking action against a defendant.

While these are the ideal circumstances for a "good prosecution," defence lawyers know there is enormous prosecutorial latitude to pursue less-than-stellar prosecutions of defendants.

Crown prosecutors also make the decisions about the charges to place against defendants. They are free to uphold the charges listed in an indictment, upgrade or downgrade them or dismiss them outright. They can agree to negotiate plea bargains or take cases to trial. They have a great amount of power over the lives of defendants facing charges in the Alberta courts.

When you are facing criminal charges, you have to consider the long-term consequences of a potential conviction on your record. It's vital to discuss your options with a defence lawyer who can offer advice and counsel you on a course of action to fit your circumstances.

Source: Alberta Justice and Solicitor General, "Decision to prosecute," accessed Aug. 26, 2016

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