Vindictive Prosecution in California: Protecting Defendants’ Rights

Vindictive prosecution occurs where the prosecution is pursuing charges against a criminal defendant out of spite, retaliation, or a desire to punish them for asserting their rights. While it is difficult to prove vindictive prosecution, a successful motion to dismiss for vindictive prosecution can have extremely favorable outcomes.

Understanding Vindictive Prosecution

Vindictive prosecution occurs when the government, typically the prosecuting authority, retaliates against a defendant for exercising their legal rights. These rights may include requesting a trial , asserting the right to remain silent, or challenging the government's actions by filing a motion to suppress, filing a motion to dismiss after preliminary hearing or filing a motion to dismiss at arraignment. Vindictive prosecution undermines the integrity of the criminal justice system by discouraging defendants from exercising their rights for fear of facing additional, unwarranted charges.

How to Establish Vindictive Prosecution

Proving vindictive prosecution is a complex endeavor that requires careful documentation and legal analysis. To establish vindictive prosecution, defense attorneys often consider the following factors:

Timing of Charges: Analyze the timing of the charges. If new charges are filed shortly after the defendant asserts their rights or challenges the prosecution, it may suggest vindictiveness.

Differential Treatment: Examine whether the defendant is being treated differently from others facing similar circumstances, such as a codefendant. If other individuals facing similar charges are not subjected to additional charges, it can support a claim of vindictiveness.

Documenting Statements: Collect and document any statements or actions by the prosecution or law enforcement that suggest vindictive motives. This may include statements expressing a desire to “teach the defendant a lesson” or retaliate against them.

Lack of New Evidence: Assess whether there is genuinely new evidence or circumstances that warrant the additional charges. If the prosecution cannot demonstrate a legitimate reason for the new charges, it raises suspicion.

Prosecutorial Discretion: Evaluate whether the prosecutor has exercised their discretion unfairly by pursuing charges or seeking harsher penalties without justification.

Filing a Motion to Dismiss for Vindictive Prosecution

When defense attorneys believe that their client is a victim of vindictive prosecution, they may file a motion to dismiss. While the burden of proof generally rests with the defendant, establishing a prima facie case of vindictive prosecution may shift the burden to the prosecution to justify their actions. A motion to dismiss for vindictive prosecution typically includes the following elements:

Statement of Vindictiveness: Clearly state the reasons why the prosecution is vindictive. This should be supported by the factors mentioned earlier, such as timing, differential treatment, and statements by the prosecution.

Evidence and Documentation: Present evidence and documentation that support your claim. This can include affidavits, transcripts, and any other relevant materials that establish a prima facie case of vindictive prosecution.

There will need to be legal argument and a request for a remedy, typically dismissal of the charges or a reduction in the charges to their original form, should also be included in the motion.

Possible Outcomes of a Vindictive Prosecution Motion

Successfully filing a motion to dismiss for vindictive prosecution can yield several favorable outcomes for the defendant:

Dismissal of Charges: If the court agrees that vindictive prosecution has been established, the charges against the defendant may be dismissed.

Reduction in Charges: In some cases, the court may decide to reduce the charges to their original form, eliminating any additional charges that were brought in a vindictive manner. This may include reducing the charges from a felony to a misdemeanor.

If you are charged with a crime and believe that you are the victim of vindictive prosecution n multi-defendant cases in federal court, it is absolutely imperative that you discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Michael Kraut has successfully advocated for his clients and has argued and won vindictive prosecution motions, resulting in reduced or dismissed charges.

For more information about the criminal justice process, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at (888) 334-6344 or (323) 464-6453.

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