Screening is the process by which the District Attorney carries out the power and authority granted to him/her in LSA Code Criminal Procedure Article 61 “the district attorney has entire charge and control of every criminal prosecution instituted in his district, and determines whom, when and how he/she shall prosecute.” The elected District Attorney is held accountable to the community. In a DA’s office it is neither desirable or acceptable to have a charging philosophy or standard dependent on individual attitudes. There must be consistency and even-handedness in the application of the discretion in the decision to prosecute a suspect with a crime.
Screening is “Triage”. We have to establish early on whether there is sufficient evidence to support prosecution. It is only through a uniform application of charging discretion that the District Attorney brings consistency and fairness to the local criminal justice system. It is the express philosophy of this office to hold accountable those who violate the law, but this office has the responsibility of protecting the innocent from wrongful accusations.This office has a relationship with law enforcement. We have a common goal, but we must not relinquish our role of looking at each case with a critical eye. The office expects Law enforcement to conduct thorough investigations in each case presented. Unreasonable requirements will not be imposed on the law enforcement agencies in an attempt to find a “perfect” case. There must be sufficient proof for each element in order to authorize criminal prosecution. There must be legally admissible evidence to establish each and every element of the offense and evidence that the accused committed the crime. If the evidence will not support a conviction, the case must be declined.
Unless the District Attorney recuses himself, he/she alone has authority to institute charges. The screening division decides whether to accept what law enforcement has booked; accept what law enforcement has booked plus additional charges, accept something totally different than what law enforcement has booked, refuse all charges, refer charges to another jurisdiction, such as U. S. Attorney, City Court, another judicial district, Diversion (PIP). Charges can be brought by Bill of Information for crimes not punishable by death or life imprisonment. When the crime is punishable by life imprisonment or death, the charge must be brought by presented to the Grand Jury for a Bill of Indictment. The contents of a Bill of Information or Bill of Indictment must be specific enough so that the accused is able to prepare for trial, can determine the relevancy and admissibility of evidence, the court can impose an appropriate sentence if defendant is convicted, the accused is protected against double jeopardy.
Collin Sims, Chief of Criminal
For questions about screening or a file under review, please email us at DAmontgomery@22DA.orgSubject Line: Screening.
Call: 985-809-8383 and ask for the Duty ADA.