DISCRETION, crim. law. The ability to know and distinguish between good and
evil; between what is lawful and what is unlawful.
2. The age at which children are said to have discretion, is not very accurately ascertained. Under seven years, it seems that no circumstances of mischievous discretion can be admitted to overthrow the strong presumption of innocence, which is raised by an age so tender. 1 Hale, P. C. 27, 8; 4 Bl. Coin. 23. Between the ages of seven and fourteen, the infant is, prima facie, destitute of criminal design, but this presumption diminishes as the age increases, and even during this interval of youth, may be repelled by positive evidence of vicious intention; for tenderness of years will not excuse a maturity in crime, the maxim in these cases being, malitia supplet aetatem. At fourteen, children are said to have acquired legal discretion. 1 Hale, P. C. 25.
Studies show that police officers use discretion to simplify their very complex job requirements and also to identify certain individual priorities that each officer has to eliminate the very broad and often contradictory laws put into place by statutes and policymakers. If officers had to cite or make an arrest on every law being broken, we would need a police officer for every 2-3 citizens. We leave it up to the individual officer to use discretion in cases where a gray area resides. Should an officer ticket every person that speeds? Where do they draw the line? This is one of many situations where discretion comes into place. There are other things that contribute to the individual officer's use of their discretion. Often the sex or minority status of an officer would lead them to act in different ways and use discretion in different ways than that of the opposite. Where an officer was raised or what they have experienced would lead them to react to scenarios differently.