Selective Prosecution Law & Legal Definition

Selective Prosecution happens when a criminal prosecution is brought at the discretion of a prosecutor rather than as a matter of course in the normal functioning of the prosecuting authority's office. It can also be the enforcement or prosecution of criminal laws against a particular class of persons and the simultaneous failure to administer criminal laws against others outside the targeted class. Selective prosecution violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment if a defendant is singled out for prosecution when others similarly situated have not been prosecuted and the prosecutor's reasons for doing so are not permissible.

Selective prosecution cases are very difficult to prove. The general presumption is that prosecutors have not violated equal protection requirements, and the burden is on the claimants to prove 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.