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Criminal Prosecutor  What They Do

Just the Facts


Insider Info

dotIf you watch the TV show Law and Order, you'll get a sense of the criminal prosecutor's role. Criminal prosecutors, or prosecuting attorneys as they are sometimes called, deal with people charged with criminal offenses. District attorneys also perform a similar role.

Their job is to prove charges against suspects in order to get them convicted. Generally, they prepare cases, write reports, interview witnesses and present their findings at the trial.

dotIn the U.S., some prosecutors are elected officials. Deputy prosecuting attorneys are employees.

dotIn order to better understand the work of the criminal prosecutor, here's a crash course in criminal law. First, you need to understand what a crime is. By definition, this is an act that is seen as having been committed against the public, not just an individual.

Crimes are risks to public peace because of their serious nature. They are different from civil violations, which strictly affect the individual. When crimes such as murder or theft are committed, the government or "community" takes over and sends the suspects to court. In civil cases, however, it is up to the individual to sue.

In criminal cases, the police conduct investigations and arrange for the suspect's appearance in court. Prosecutors generally take over at the point when the suspect is formally charged.

dotProsecuting attorneys are involved in the decision to prosecute. They have to closely look at the evidence gathered by the police to make that determination. This is important because their job is to prove the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt.

Technically, federal criminal prosecutors are representatives of the U.S. attorney general. When they prosecute, they actually do so in the name of the attorney general.

In fact, in some cases, they need the permission of the attorney general before they can proceed. District attorneys (DAs) are independent of the attorney general's office.

dotNegotiations are an important part of the job of these attorneys. You've probably heard of the term plea bargaining. Prosecuting attorneys negotiate with lawyers for the accused, sometimes to get the suspect to plead guilty in exchange for leniency.

But the primary aim of the prosecutor is to get suspected criminals convicted and sentenced to jail for their crimes. They will ask for a sentence that matches the severity of the crime. When a prosecuting attorney's case is rejected by the court, they may decide to appeal to a higher court.

dotAs a prosecuting attorney, you will work mainly in an office environment and in the court setting. Professionals in this area could work at the federal or even county level.

Research and interviewing play significant roles in this job. Special mobility needs should not stop you from aspiring to this career. You will need good communication skills, though.

At a Glance

Deal with people charged with criminal offenses

  • You need good research and interviewing skills
  • It's a very competitive field
  • You need to finish law school, pass a bar exam and get a license