Rule 3.8. Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor

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Rule 3.8. Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor.

Colorado Court Rules
Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct


As amended through Rule Change 2018(6), effective April 12, 2018

Rule 3.8. Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor

The prosecutor in a criminal case shall:

(a) refrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause;

(b) make reasonable efforts to assure that the accused has been advised of the right to, and the procedure for obtaining, counsel and has been given reasonable opportunity to obtain counsel;

(c) not seek to obtain from an unrepresented accused a waiver of important pretrial rights, such as the right to a preliminary hearing;

(d) make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense, and, in connection with sentencing, disclose to the defense and to the tribunal all unprivileged mitigating information known to the prosecutor, except when the prosecutor is relieved of
this responsibility by a protective order of the tribunal;

(e) not subpoena a lawyer in a grand jury or other criminal proceeding to present evidence about a past or present client unless the prosecutor reasonably believes:

(1) the information sought is not protected from disclosure by any applicable privilege;
(2) the evidence sought is essential to the successful completion of an ongoing investigation or prosecution; and
(3) there is no other feasible alternative to obtain the information;

(f) except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor's action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused unless such comments are permitted under Rule 3.6(b) or
3.6(c), and exercise reasonable care to prevent investigators, law enforcement personnel, employees or other persons assisting or associated with the prosecutor in a criminal case from making an extrajudicial statement that the prosecutor would be prohibited from making under Rule 3.6 or this Rule.

(g) When a prosecutor knows of new, credible and material evidence creating a reasonable probability that a convicted defendant did not commit an offense of which the defendant was convicted, the prosecutor shall within a reasonable time:

  1.  disclose that evidence to an appropriate court or prosecutorial authority, and

(2) if the judgment of conviction was entered by a court in which the prosecutor exercises prosecutorial authority
(A) disclose the evidence to the defendant, and
(B) if the defendant is not represented, move the court in which the defendant was convicted to appoint counsel to assist the defendant concerning the evidence.

(h) When a prosecutor knows of clear and convincing evidence establishing that a defendant was convicted in a court in which the prosecutor exercises prosecutorial authority, of an offense that the defendant did not commit, the prosecutor shall take steps in the appropriate court, consistent with applicable law, to set aside the conviction.

Cite as RPC 3.8

History. (f) and comment amended and adopted and (2) deleted, effective February 19, 1997; entire Appendix
repealed and readopted April 12, 2007, effective January 1, 2008; (g) and (h) added and adopted, comment [1]
amended and adopted, and comment [3A], [7], [7A], [8], [8A], [9], and [9A] added and adopted June 17, 2010,
effective July 1, 2010; (f) and comment [5] amended and effective February 10, 2011.


[1] A prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate. This responsibility
carries with it specific obligations to see that the defendant is accorded procedural justice, that guilt is decided upon
the basis of sufficient evidence and that special precautions are taken to prevent and to address the conviction of
innocent persons. The extent of mandated remedial action is a matter of debate and varies in different jurisdictions.
Many jurisdictions have adopted the ABA Standards of Criminal Justice Relating to the Prosecution Function, which
are the product of prolonged and careful deliberation by lawyers experienced in both criminal prosecution and
defense. Competent representation of the sovereign may require a prosecutor to undertake some procedural and
remedial measures as a matter of obligation. Applicable law may require other measures by the prosecutor and
knowing disregard of those obligations or a systematic abuse of prosecutorial discretion could constitute a violation of
Rule 8.4.

[2] In some jurisdictions, a defendant may waive a preliminary hearing and thereby lose a valuable opportunity to challenge probable cause. Accordingly, prosecutors should not seek to obtain waivers of preliminary hearings or other important pretrial rights from unrepresented defendants. Paragraph (c) does not apply, however, to a defendant
appearing pro se with the approval of the tribunal. Nor does it forbid the lawful questioning of an uncharged suspect
who has knowingly waived the rights to counsel and silence.

[3] The exception in paragraph (d) recognizes that a prosecutor may seek an appropriate protective order from the
tribunal if disclosure of information to the defense could result in substantial harm to an individual or to the public

[3A] A prosecutor's duties following conviction are set forth in sections (g) and (h) of this rule.

[4] Paragraph (e) is intended to limit the issuance of lawyer subpoenas in grand jury and other criminal proceedings to
those situations in which there is a genuine need to intrude into the client-lawyer relationship.

[5] Paragraph (f) supplements the prohibition in Rule 3.6, which prohibits extrajudicial statements that have a
substantial likelihood of prejudicing an adjudicatory proceeding, but does not limit the protection of Rule 3.6(b) or Rule
3.6(c). In the context of a criminal prosecution, a prosecutor's extrajudicial statement can create the additional
problem of increasing public condemnation of the accused. Although the announcement of an indictment, for example,
will necessarily have severe consequences for the accused, a prosecutor can, and should, avoid comments which
have no legitimate law enforcement purpose and have a substantial likelihood of increasing public condemnation of
the accused. Nevertheless, a prosecutor shall not be subject to disciplinary action on the basis that the prosecutor's
statement violated paragraph (f), if the statement was permitted by Rule 3.6(b) or Rule 3.6(c).

[6] Like other lawyers, prosecutors are subject to Rules 5.1 and 5.3, which relate to responsibilities regarding lawyers
and nonlawyers who work for or are associated with the lawyer's office. Paragraph (f) reminds the prosecutor of the
importance of these obligations in connection with the unique dangers of improper extrajudicial statements in a
criminal case. In addition, paragraph (f) requires a prosecutor to exercise reasonable care to prevent persons
assisting or associated with the prosecutor from making improper extrajudicial statements, even when such persons
are not under the direct supervision of the prosecutor. Ordinarily, the reasonable care standard will be satisfied if the
prosecutor issues the appropriate cautions to law-enforcement personnel and other relevant individuals.

[7] When a prosecutor knows of new, credible and material evidence creating a reasonable likelihood that a person
outside the prosecutor's jurisdiction was convicted of a crime that the person did not commit, paragraph (g) requires
disclosure to the court or other prosecutorial authority, such as the chief prosecutor of the jurisdiction where the
conviction occurred. Consistent with the objectives of Rules 4.2 and 4.3, disclosure to a represented defendant must
be made through the defendant's counsel, and, in the case of an unrepresented defendant, the prosecutor must take
the affirmative step of making a request to a court for the appointment of counsel to assist the defendant in taking
such legal measures as may be appropriate.

[7A] What constitutes "within a reasonable time" will vary according to the circumstances presented. When
considering the timing of a disclosure, a prosecutor should consider all of the circumstances, including whether the
defendant is subject to the death penalty, is presently incarcerated, or is under court supervision. The prosecutor
should also consider what investigative resources are available to the prosecutor, whether the trial prosecutor who
prosecuted the case is still reasonably available, what new investigation or testing is appropriate, and the prejudice to
an on-going investigation.

[8] Under paragraph (h), once the prosecutor knows of clear and convincing evidence that the defendant was
convicted of either an offense that the defendant did not commit or of an offense that involves conduct of others for
which the defendant is legally accountable ( see C.R.S. §18-1-601 et seq. and 18 U.S.C. § 2 ), but which those others
did not commit, then the prosecutor must take steps in the appropriate court. Necessary steps may include disclosure
of the evidence to the defendant, requesting that the court appoint counsel for an unrepresented indigent defendant
and, where appropriate, notifying the court that the prosecutor has knowledge that the defendant did not commit the
offense of which the defendant was convicted.

[8A] Evidence is considered new when it was unknown to a trial prosecutor at the time the conviction was entered or,
if known to a trial prosecutor, was not disclosed to the defense, either deliberately or inadvertently. The reasons for
the evidence being unknown (and therefore new) are varied. It may be new because: the information was not
available to a trial prosecutor or the prosecution team at the time of trial; the police department investigating the case
or other agency involved in the prosecution did not provide the evidence to a trial prosecutor; or recent testing was
performed which was not available at the time of trial. There may be other circumstances when information would be
deemed new evidence.

[9] A prosecutor's reasonable judgment made in good faith, that the new evidence is not of such nature as to trigger
the obligations of sections (g) and (h), although subsequently determined to have been erroneous, does not constitute
a violation of this Rule.

[9A] Factors probative of the prosecutor's reasonable judgment that the evidence casts serious doubt on the reliability
of the judgment of conviction include: whether the evidence was essential to a principal issue in the trial that produced
the conviction; whether the evidence goes beyond the credibility of a witness; whether the evidence is subject to
serious dispute; or whether the defendant waived the establishment of a factual basis pursuant to criminal procedural