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In Law, what is a Prosecutor?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2016
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In law, a prosecutor is a lawyer who attempts to prove that an accused party has committed a crime. In many countries, a prosecutor represents the government in legal cases and works to see that justice is served. For example, a prosecuting attorney may attempt to prove that a defendant in a case is guilty of assault and battery. Most people are familiar with public prosecutors who are usually appointed or hired by the government, but the laws of some jurisdictions allow for private prosecutors as well.

When it comes to a criminal case, there are usually two parties involved at the outset of the case: the victim and the accused party. Once a prosecuting attorney gets involved, however, he usually represents the state rather than the victim. His job is to seek justice on behalf of the government he serves as well as in accordance with its laws. The victim of a criminal act may benefit from the justice a prosecuting attorney seeks, but is usually not a client of the prosecutor in a criminal case. The prosecuting attorney may, however, rely heavily on the victim's testimony and consider the victim's wishes when seeking specific punishment for the defendant.

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While a public prosecutor's job is to prosecute accused parties on behalf of the government, he actually has a more important job to fulfill. This is making sure the right person is convicted and punished. Essentially, this means part of a prosecutor’s job is the protection of the innocent. In seeking justice, he is supposed to help ensure that people are not convicted of crimes they did not commit.

A public prosecutor may serve a national, regional, or local government. A person with this title may also be identified by a range of different names. For example, a prosecutor may be called a government, state, county, or district attorney. There are even some places in which a prosecuting attorney is called a crown attorney or counsel, procurator fiscal, or advocates depute.

A private prosecutor prosecutes on behalf of an individual or organization rather than a government authority. In a criminal case, a private prosecuting attorney usually has to go before a judge or other legal authority to convince him that there is sufficient evidence for prosecution and to be sworn in. Private prosecutions may not be allowed in all jurisdictions, and they are far less common than prosecutions by attorneys who work for a government.

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