Selective Prosecution

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Selective Prosecution

Criminal prosecution based on an unjustifiable standard such as race, religion, or other Arbitrary classification.

Selective prosecution is the enforcement or prosecution of criminal laws against a particular class of persons and the simultaneous failure to administer criminal laws against others out-side the targeted class. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that selective prosecution exists where the enforcement or prosecution of a Criminal Law is "directed so exclusively against a particular class of persons … with a mind so unequal and oppressive" that the administration of the criminal law amounts to a practical denial of Equal Protection of the law (United States v. Armstrong, 517 U.S. 456, 116 S. Ct. 1480, 134 L. Ed. 2d 687 [1996], quoting yick wo v. hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 6 S. Ct. 1064, 30 L. Ed. 220 [1886]). Specifically, police and prosecutors may not base the decision to arrest a person for, or charge a person with, a criminal offense based on "an unjustifiable standard such as race, religion, or other arbitrary classification" (United States v. Armstrong, quoting Oyler v. Boles, 368 U.S. 448, 82 S. Ct. 501, 7 L. Ed. 2d 446 [1962]).

Selective prosecution is a violation of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection for all persons under the law. On the federal level, the requirement of equal protection is contained in the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment extends the prohibition on selective prosecution to the states. The equal protection doctrine requires that persons in similar circumstances must receive similar treatment under the law.

Selective prosecution cases are notoriously difficult to prove. Courts presume that prosecutors have not violated equal protection requirements, and claimants bear the burden of proving otherwise. A person claiming selective prosecution must show that the prosecutorial policy had a discriminatory effect and that it was motivated by a discriminatory purpose. To demonstrate a discriminatory effect, a claimant must show that similarly situated individuals of a different class were not prosecuted. For example, a person claiming selective prosecution of white Protestants must produce evidence that shows that white Protestants were prosecuted for a particular crime and that persons outside this group could have been prosecuted but were not.

The prohibition of selective prosecution may be used to invalidate a law. In Yick Wo v. Hopkins, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a San Francisco ordinance that prohibited the operation of laundries in wooden buildings. San Francisco authorities had used the ordinance to prevent Chinese from operating a laundry business in a wooden building. Yet the same authorities had granted permission to eighty individuals who were not Chinese to operate laundries in wooden buildings. Because the city enforced the ordinance only against Chinese-owned laundries, the Court ordered that Yick Wo, who had been imprisoned for violating the ordinance, be set free.


Criminal Procedure.

References in periodicals archive ?
We have repeatedly expressed our concerns about due process violations and selective prosecution in Russia, including against Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev, who remains in prison," Kerry said in a statement released by the State Department.
Administration officials have expressed serious concerns about regression in Ukraine's democratic development since Yanukovych took power, including in such areas as media freedoms and selective prosecution of the government's political opponents.
With regard to the issue of selective prosecution, the Trial Chamber found that the accused was not singled out for selective prosecution," Justice Richard Lussick, from Samoa, who presided over the judgement session on 26 April, found it necessary to stress.
Friends and family members who attended parts of the trial complained of selective prosecution of Muslims, while Hassan's father said that the trial had been "a long nightmare" after the verdict.
Lewis was the victim of illegal selective prosecution or bad faith by the government.
Bass, (1) the Supreme Court, in a per curiam opinion, ruled on the standard of proof required for a defendant to obtain discovery to support a claim of selective prosecution for the death penalty.
Among victims of selective prosecution in this country I would name Sacco and Vanzetti, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, and Timothy McVeigh, among others.
Armstrong (33) made the requirements for a defendant to obtain discovery so strict as to render the success of a selective prosecution claim practically impossible.
15) In New Jersey, where Whren has been adopted as a state standard, courts have also expressed their distrust of racial profiling, but have been limited in doing so to cases where the defendant can meet the more stringent standard of selective prosecution.
Attorneys representing the black activists prosecuted for voter fraud call it a case of selective prosecution.
De Lima also raised the possibility that Napoles would be used against her for her supposed selective prosecution of the pork barrel scam when she was still Justice Secretary during the Aquino administration.
The report documented continued significant human rights abuses, including harassment, beatings, and threats against political opponents by government-organized mobs and state security officials; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention of human rights advocates and members of independent organizations; selective prosecution and denial of fair trial; pervasive monitoring of private conversations; and severe limitations on freedom of speech and press.

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