This fall the Denver Post obtained a memorandum distributed by the Denver City Attorney’s Office that instructed prosecutors to delay dismissal of non-provable careless driving cases. When confronted about the policy, the City defended the policy, but also said they would be revising the memorandum. It was recently confirmed by the Denver Post that the policy had, in fact, changed, or at least the memorandum had changed. Rather than delaying dismissal, the new memorandum instructs attorneys to give defendants the benefit of the doubt when analyzing the provability of a case.
Unfortunately, the prior policy by the City likely had a more serious impact on those who are not able to hire an attorney. An attorney would be able to evaluate a case and advise a client as to whether the case is provable independent from how the prosecutor chooses to handle the case. An unrepresented person may not have that same advantage, resulting in a potentially unjust result.
This new policy is more in line with the law and rules of ethics. Prosecutors should be able to prove a charge beyond a reasonable doubt, regardless of whether the charge is a simple traffic infraction, a misdemeanor or a serious felony. If charges cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the charges should be dismissed. A prosecutor should not even attempt to secure a guilty plea by offering a plea bargain, let alone delay proceedings, hoping a defendant will tire of appearing in court and simply accept an offer to avoid the inconvenience.