What Does a District Prosecutor Do?

C. Mitchell

A district prosecutor is, in most cases, an American lawyer who enforces state-level law and brings cases against citizens and residents accused of violating that law. These lawyers work to end crime and corruption by pursing cases and launching investigations. They work closely with the police and local law enforcement to investigate suspected crimes and to determine whether to formally press charges, or bring to trial, those apprehended in connection with a crime. Much of the district prosecutor’s work involves applying local law to real-life situations and crafting cases against violators.

District prosecutors try to convict people of crimes committed in the areas they represent.
District prosecutors try to convict people of crimes committed in the areas they represent.

Most countries' legal systems include prosecutors, many of which work in or with certain set districts. Some of them are called district prosecutors, though the phrase is most commonly associated with the U.S. legal system. Even within the United States, however, the definition and even the job description is not universal.

In the United States, each state has the authority to make and enforce its own laws. Within each state, cities and counties can also pass their own regulations. Each state has an Attorney General, who is responsible for overseeing the state’s legal proceedings. He or she will prosecute any major crimes committed against the state or state residents. Smaller or more localized crimes are usually handled by a district prosecutor, who is sometimes also called a district attorney, depending on the state.

Most states are divided into a number of judicial districts. Different states have various ways of drawing district lines, but the process is usually based on population density. A district usually contains several counties. Each district has the authority to elect its own prosecutor or representative attorney, who will ensure that state and local laws are being upheld.

District prosecutor duties are primarily centered on the reduction of crime through the legal process. Most prosecutors employ a staff of lawyers to help manage the caseload. The prosecutor, along with the attorneys on his or her staff, investigates alleged crimes, and then bring charges against defendants. Crimes prosecuted by district prosecutors include, domestic violence, drug violations, gang violence, homicide, theft, and juvenile delinquency.

A district prosecutor job description is rather wide-ranging. Attorneys in the prosecutor's office do all they can to successfully convict alleged criminals of crimes. This moves crime off of the streets, helping to ensure that perpetrators do not offend again and that others are deterred from such offenses. As a consequence, the community is, or at least is perceived to be, safer.

Core district prosecutor duties include research, brief writing, trial preparation, and ultimately trial practice. Prosecutors will often try to plea bargain with offenders to avoid taking all matters to trial, and knowing which cases to settle and which charges to bargain with is something of an art and depends on experience. Conviction rate is often important in determining whether a prosecutor is re-elected.

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