Missouri Attorney General has limited prosecution powers

Attorney General Chris Koster

As the state's attorney general, Chris Koster is sometimes referred to as Missouri's top prosecutor. But the nationally publicized case of an alleged teenage sexual assault has highlighted the limited prosecutorial powers Koster has as Attorney General.

Some top Republicans have called on the Democratic attorney general to intervene after media reports that the Nodaway County prosecutor had dropped charges of sexual assault and exploiting a minor against two 17-year-old boys accused of harming a younger girl.

Koster said he could do nothing unless the local prosecutor asked for help or stepped aside so a special prosecutor could be appointed.

In some states, such as Alaska, Delaware and Rhode Island, attorneys general can file charges. But in Missouri and many other states, the discretion to charge rests with local prosecutors.