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What Is the General Role of a Prosecuting Attorney?

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A prosecuting attorney determines when to charge someone with a crime and presents the government's case against that individual in court, explains Martindale-Hubbell. A prosecutor protects the public from violations of rights and threats to public safety.

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Prosecuting attorneys are involved from the investigation phase through the sentencing phase of a criminal proceeding, according to the American Bar Association. A prosecutor has a duty to seek justice, not merely to convict individuals of crimes.

In order to fulfill his duties, a prosecutor often works with a police department or federal investigative agency to gather information about potentially criminal conduct, says Martindale-Hubbell. The prosecutor then decides if the perpetrator should be charged with a crime. When a criminal case goes to trial, the prosecutor is in charge of presenting the case to the judge or jury, including the presentation of evidence and examination of witnesses. A prosecutor also plays a role in sentencing a convicted individual, states the American Bar Association.

The exact duties of a prosecuting attorney vary in different state and federal jurisdictions, according to Martindale-Hubbell. For example, a federal prosecutor must get a grand jury indictment to take a case to trial. However, most state prosecutors do not need a grand jury indictment to file a criminal complaint against an accused individual.

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