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Illustrative Essay Example: Ethical and Legal Issues in Prosecution


Homicide and arson are two crimes which usually involve perpetrators seeking to conceal evidence. This results in a greater need for ethical practice by the investigator in ensuring that evidence is collected for successful prosecution of a case. There are different ethical and legal considerations which ought to be taken into consideration in dealing with crime scenes and investigating the said crimes in order not to tamper with the rights of the plaintiffs or the evidence at the scene (Douglas, 2008). As such legal and ethical frameworks ought to be a mainstay of the knowledge of the investigating and prosecution officer.

Ethical Issues in Investigating Arson and Homicide

In investigating arson and homicide it is usually important that the investigator ensures that the rights of the suspects are respected at all times. Ethical issues in arson and homicide will usually include; falsification of evidence, falsification of testimony, retribution and personal experiences (Lynton et al., 2013). An investigator may feel justified to falsify evidence in order to get a known criminal off the streets. Investigators may also feel they are justified to lie in court in order to get the desired outcome which is unethical. Investigators may sometimes feel that they are justified in meting out retributive justice since they know or have a relationship with a person harmed by the offender. Bias by the investigator is also a cause of concern especially when previous experience causes injustice to a suspect.

How to Deal with Ethical Problems

In order to deal with the above mentioned ethical issues there needs to be proactive action by all stakeholders in the criminal justice system. Justices and magistrates ought to deal severely with officers found to have engaged in unethical practices such as the falsification of testimony and evidence (Carle, 2005). Investigative officers ought to be trained on the need to be respectful of the rights of suspects. Bias and feeling of justification of retributive justice are the result of being in the field for long without retraining. As such it is important to have refresher courses for investigative officers. Officers found guilty of planting evidence or prosecuting on the basis of stereotypes and bias ought to be punished severely or have their cases thrown out in order to discourage the practice (Douglas, 2008).

Problems in Prosecution as a Result of Unethical Investigations

Unethical investigations will usually have the risk of the case being thrown out when it is prosecuted. A case brought to court on the basis of falsified evidence or testimony may unravel at any time since the element of reasonable doubt applies to all capital cases such as murder and arson (Lynton et al., 2013). A case which is prosecuted on the basis of previous experiences, bias and attitudes of the police officer will not attain the necessary threshold and is likely to be dismissed. Since the investigator has to act as a witness he may taint the prosecution's case by offering false or fabricated evidence. If the defendant were to have a good defence team it would likely find the unethical issues in the prosecution's case and exploit them. Falsification of evidence and false testimony are the critical components directly impacting the prosecutor since he has to depend on the investigator as a witness (Carle, 2005).

Ethical Issues related to the Prosecutor

A prosecutor who prosecutes a case that he knows has ethical concerns are equally as guilty as the investigator in perpetrating unethical practice. The prosecutor ought to refuse to prosecute a case if they suspect that the investigator may have engaged in unethical practice in the collection of evidence. If the prosecutor has knowledge of unethical practice and goes ahead to prosecute he may be punished just like the investigator (Douglas, 2008). However, the prosecutor is excluded from blame if he is unaware of unethical practice of the investigator.


  1. Carle, S. D. (2005). Lawyers' ethics and the pursuit of social justice: A critical reader. New York [u.a.: New York University Press.
  2. Douglass, J. J., & National College of District Attorneys. (2008). Ethical issues in prosecution. Houston, Tex: National College of District Attorneys, University of Houston Law Center.
  3. Lynton, J. S., Lyndall, T. M., & Church, J. (2013). Legal ethics and professional responsibility. Albany, N.Y.: Lawyers Cooperative Pub., Delmar Publishers.