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) after reasonably diligent inquiry, make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information required to be disclosed by applicable law, rules of procedure, or court opinions including 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, or participate in the application for the issuance of a search warrant to a lawyer for the seizure of information of a past or present client in connection with an investigation of someone other than the lawyer, unless:
(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 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 evidence or information creating a reasonable likelihood that a convicted defendant did not commit an offense for which the defendant was convicted, the prosecutor shall:
(1) if the conviction was obtained in the prosecutor’s jurisdiction, promptly disclose that evidence or information to (i) the defendant or defendant’s counsel of record if any, and (ii) the North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense Services or, in the case of a federal conviction, the federal public defender for the jurisdiction; or
(2) if the conviction was obtained in another jurisdiction, promptly disclose that evidence or information to the prosecutor’s office in the jurisdiction of the conviction or to (i) the defendant or defendant’s counsel of record if any, and (ii) the North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense Services or, in the case of a federal conviction, the federal public defender for the jurisdiction of conviction.
(h) A prosecutor who concludes in good faith that evidence or information is not subject to disclosure under paragraph (g) does not violate this rule even if the prosecutor’s conclusion is subsequently determined to be erroneous.
 A prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate; the prosecutor's duty is to seek justice, not merely to convict or to uphold a conviction. This responsibility carries with it specific obligations to see that the defendant is accorded procedural justice and that guilt is decided upon the basis of sufficient evidence. Precisely how far the prosecutor is required to go in this direction is a matter of debate and varies in different jurisdictions. See the ABA Standards of Criminal Justice Relating to the Prosecution Function. A systematic abuse of prosecutorial discretion could constitute a violation of Rule 8.4.
 The prosecutor represents the sovereign and, therefore, should use restraint in the discretionary exercise of government powers, such as in the selection of cases to prosecute. During trial, the prosecutor is not only an advocate, but he or she also may make decisions normally made by an individual client, and those affecting the public interest should be fair to all. In our system of criminal justice, the accused is to be given the benefit of all reasonable doubt. With respect to evidence and witnesses, the prosecutor has responsibilities different from those of a lawyer in private practice; the prosecutor should make timely disclosure to the defense of available evidence known to him or her that tends to negate the guilt of the accused, mitigate the degree of the offense, or reduce the punishment. Further, a prosecutor should not intentionally avoid pursuit of evidence merely because he or she believes it will damage the prosecutor's case or aid the accused.
 Paragraph (c) does not apply, however, to an accused 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.
 Every prosecutor should be aware of the discovery requirements established by statutory law and case law. See, e.g., N.C. Gen. Stat. §15A-903 et. seq, Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); Giglio v. U.S., 405 U.S. 150 (1972); Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419 (1995). 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 interest.
 Paragraph (e) is intended to limit the issuance of lawyer subpoenas in grand jury and other criminal proceedings, and search warrants for client information, to those situations in which there is a genuine need to intrude into the client-lawyer relationship. The provision applies only when someone other than the lawyer is the target of a criminal investigation.
 Paragraph (f) supplements Rule 3.6, which prohibits extrajudicial statements that have a substantial likelihood of prejudicing an adjudicatory proceeding. 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 opprobrium of the accused. Nothing in this Comment is intended to restrict the statements that a prosecutor may make which comply with Rule 3.6(b) or 3.6(c).
 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.
 When a prosecutor knows of new, credible evidence or information creating a reasonable likelihood that a defendant did not commit an offense for which the defendant was convicted in the prosecutor’s district, paragraph (g)(1) requires prompt disclosure to the defendant. However, if disclosure will harm the defendant’s interests or the integrity of the evidence or information, disclosure should be made to the defendant’s lawyer if any. Disclosure must be made to North Carolina Indigent Defense Services (NCIDS) or, if appropriate, the federal public defender, under all circumstances regardless of whether disclosure is also made to the defendant or the defendant’s lawyer. If there is a good faith basis for not disclosing the evidence or information to the defendant, disclosure to NCIDS or the federal public defender and to any counsel of record satisfies this rule. If the conviction was obtained in another jurisdiction, paragraph (g)(2) allows the prosecutor promptly to disclose the evidence or information to the prosecutor’s office in the jurisdiction of conviction in lieu of any other disclosure. The prosecutor in the jurisdiction of the conviction then has an independent duty of disclosure under paragraph (g)(1). In lieu of disclosure to the prosecutor’s office in the jurisdiction of conviction, paragraph (g)(2) requires disclosure to the defendant or to the defendant’s lawyer, if any, and to NCIDS or, if appropriate, the federal public defender.
 The word “new” as used in paragraph (g) means evidence or information unknown to a trial prosecutor at the time of the conviction or, if known to a trial prosecutor at the time of the conviction, never previously disclosed to the defendant or defendant’s legal counsel. When analyzing new evidence or information, the prosecutor must evaluate the substance of the information received, and not solely the credibility of the source, to determine whether the evidence or information creates a reasonable likelihood that the defendant did not commit the offense.
 Nevertheless, a prosecutor who receives evidence or information relative to a conviction may disclose that evidence or information as directed in paragraph (g)(1) and (2) without examination to determine whether it is new, credible, or creates a reasonable likelihood that a convicted defendant did not commit an offense. A prosecutor who receives evidence or information subject to disclosure under paragraph (g) does not have a duty to undertake further investigation to determine whether the defendant is in fact innocent.
 A prosecutor’s independent judgment, made in good faith, that the new evidence or information is not of such nature as to trigger the obligations of paragraph (g), though subsequently determined to have been erroneous, does not constitute a violation of this Rule.
History Note: Statutory Authority G.S. 84-23
Adopted by the Supreme Court: July 24, 1997
Amendments Approved by the Supreme Court: March 1, 2003; November 16, 2006; March 16, 2017
Ethics Opinion Notes
RPC 129. Opinion rules that prosecutors and defense attorneys may negotiate plea agreements in which appellate and postconviction rights are waived, except in regard to allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel or prosecutorial misconduct.
RPC 152. Opinion rules that the prosecutor and the defense attorney must see that all material terms of a negotiated plea are disclosed in response to direct questions concerning such matters when pleas are entered in open court.
RPC 197. Opinion rules that a prosecutor must notify defense counsel, jail officials, or other appropriate persons to avoid the unnecessary detention of a criminal defendant after the charges against the defendant have been dismissed by the prosecutor.
RPC 204. Opinion rules that it is prejudicial to the administration of justice for a prosecutor to offer special treatment to individuals charged with traffic offenses or minor crimes in exchange for a direct charitable contribution to the local school system.
RPC 243. Opinion rules that it is prejudicial to the administration of justice for a prosecutor to threaten to use his discretion to schedule a criminal trial to coerce a plea agreement from a criminal defendant.
2011 Formal Ethics Opinion 16. Opinion rules that a criminal defense lawyer accused of ineffective assistance of counsel by a former client may share confidential client information with prosecutors to help establish a defense to the claim so long as the lawyer reasonably believes a response is necessary and the response is narrowly tailored to respond to the allegations.
2013 Formal Ethics Opinion 1 . Opinion rules that, subject to conditions, a prosecutor may enter into an agreement to consent to vacating a conviction upon the convicted person’s release of civil claims against the prosecutor, law enforcement authorities, or other public officials or entities.
2013 Formal Ethics Opinion 6 . Opinion rules that a state prosecutor does not violate the Rules of Professional Conduct by asking the court to enter an order for arrest when a defendant detained by ICE fails to appear in court on the defendant’s scheduled court date.