What does District Attorney mean?
A district attorney or DA is an elected or appointed government official whose primary responsibility is to prosecute offenders who have been accused of crimes. District attorneys may also determine whether there is enough evidence to charge offenders for particular crimes and whether a case should proceed to trial.
A district attorney should not be confused with US attorneys, who prosecute federal crimes, or with the attorney general, who is considered the chief law enforcement officer and chief legal advisor in the state.
Responsibilities of the District Attorney
District attorneys have many responsibilities. In some states, for example, they may determine whether a grand jury should be convened to hear evidence for a crime. After the grand juries decision, they may also be able to decide whether or not to move forward with the prosecution of the criminal case.
If the state does not require the convening of a grand jury prior to pressing felony criminal charges, the district attorney may review evidence from the police investigation and determine whether the evidence is stronge enough to prove the perpetrator was actually responsible for the crime.
Next, the district attorney must rely, not only on evidence gathered by the police, but they must also evaluate the elements of the crime and fully understand state laws and what evidence they need to meet the state’s burden of proof.
If the state’s case is not strong or they do not believe they can win at trial, the district attorney may offer the defendant a plea bargain, which allows the defendant to avoid a trial and receive less severe penalties if they are willing to plead guilty to a lesser crime.
Finally, if the district attorney does not offer a plea bargain or if the defendant refuses to accept a plea, the district attorney must also be prepared to conduct a trial and argue their case in court. District attorneys must understand the facts of the case, the process of finding a jury, and how to present the evidence to prove their case.
Who is appointed District Attorney?
Television has glamorized the role of the district attorney. Who wouldn’t want to be the next Jack McCoy? But what do you need to become a district attorney? You will need to be intelligent and legally qualified; you will also need to have a strong personal character, unquestionable ethics and strength of character, and good communication skills.
District attorneys have attended law school (generally at a prestigious university), passed the bar, and probably worked for years at a district attorney’s office as an assistant district attorney. In this role they have managed researchers, legal assistances, and investigators, as well as gained invaluable experience prosecuting their own cases.
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