What Does a Public Prosecutor Do?

Lori Kilchermann

A public prosecutor typically works for a city or a county and prosecutes all criminal and civil court cases that fall under the prosecutor's jurisdiction. Typically, when a crime has been committed, law enforcement officials will turn over the reports concerning the crime to the public prosecutor. The public prosecutor will then examine the case to decide which crime or crimes have been committed, and whether or not there is sufficient evidence to prosecute the alleged offenders. If the prosecutor decides to go forth with a trial, she will then consider any potential plea deals and bail issues and will begin the pre-trial investigation.

Public prosecutors sometimes respond directly to crime scenes.
Public prosecutors sometimes respond directly to crime scenes.

The public prosecutor oversees an office of investigators, clerks and paralegals who investigate crimes, backgrounds of suspected criminals and similar criminal cases. Once the investigation has been completed, the public prosecutor will take the case to court. The entire process typically begins immediately after the discovery of a potential crime. Once the police have completed their level of investigation, the prosecutor will usually be informed of the crime and be presented with a copy of the initial reports and evidence. With some crimes such as murder, kidnapping and some abuse cases, the public prosecutor will actually arrive at the crime scene to do some preliminary investigation, take pictures and help to preserve evidence.

In most cases, the prosecutor reviews available evidence and decides whether to press criminal charges or send the case to a grand jury.
In most cases, the prosecutor reviews available evidence and decides whether to press criminal charges or send the case to a grand jury.

With some crimes, the public prosecutor will instruct the investigators as to what type of evidence they should search for. This is all done to strengthen any case that may be forthcoming and to ensure that the evidence will not be thrown out due to improper collection or mishandling. Once enough evidence has been collected and the prosecutor is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to move forward with a trial, a trial date will be set with the court and all parties will be notified. In the United States, some crimes warrant a grand jury hearing to allow a judge to decipher if there is sufficient evidence to move forward.

Public prosecutors may field questions from reporters about a trial.
Public prosecutors may field questions from reporters about a trial.

During a trial, the public prosecutor will question people from a list of witnesses or experts called to lend their expert opinion as to the facts of the trial. The prosecutor will also cross-examine witnesses that the defense team has presented in an attempt to prove them unreliable in the eyes of the jury or the judge. Once the trial has concluded and the prosecution is victorious, the public prosecutor will conduct a post-trial investigation and present the findings, along with any sentencing recommendations, to the judge. Occasionally, the prosecutor's office will be asked to put witnesses on the stand to corroborate the post-sentence investigation findings.

A public prosecutor decides whether or not there is sufficient evidence to prosecute an alleged offender.
A public prosecutor decides whether or not there is sufficient evidence to prosecute an alleged offender.

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