Adversarial Justice System
The United States has what is known as an “adversarial judicial system” – in other words, criminal cases are contests between two opposing sides, the prosecution and the defense, which ensures that evidence and legal arguments will be fairly presented to the court by both sides.
“Prosecutors should be held to high ethical standards.” ~ California State Bar President Jim Fox
Contrary to popular belief, the prosecutor in a criminal case should not be out to get as many convictions as possible, but rather the prosecutor ultimately has a duty to do justice. If the office of prosecution realizes the defendant is not guilty of the charged offense, the prosecutor has the duty to not prosecute that individual.
Los Angeles Prosecution
In greater Los Angeles, the agency that handles the prosecution side in a criminal case depends on where the offense occurred and whether the offense is a felony or a misdemeanor:
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office handles the prosecution of all felony offenses that occur in cities or unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.
Several cities, including Los Angeles, Pasadena, Burbank, Long Beach and Torrance have City Attorney offices that handle the prosecution of all misdemeanors that occur within their city limits.
If a city does not have a City Prosecutor, the misdemeanor prosecution will be handled by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Duties of the Prosecutor
The criminal prosecutor is the legal representative of the ‘People of California’ in making sure the laws are enforced. These are the main functions of the Prosecutor in the California Criminal Justice System:
Carry Out Legal Proceedings
The office of prosecutor is charged with the responsibility of carrying out legal proceedings against a person accused of a crime in its jurisdiction. These proceedings include:
- Investigation Assistant (When needed to help Law Enforcement)
- Screening/Charging (Impact on Victim, Insufficiency of Admissible Evidence, Probability of Conviction, Deterrence)
- District Court Proceedings (Preliminary Hearings, Bond Hearings)
- Grand Jury
- Circuit Court Proceedings (Discovery, Plea Negotiations, Trial Preparation, Arraignments/Pretrials, Trial)
Act as Officer of the Court
The prosecutor is an administrator of justice, an advocate, and an officer of the court; the prosecutor must exercise sound discretion in the performance of his or her functions. The prosecutor’s duties in trial include:
- Voir Dire (Attorneys are permitted to converse with prospective jurors to try to eliminate jurors who, for one reason or another, seem unlikely to be fair to their respective clients)
- Opening Statement (Encapsulate the upcoming evidence by the State in a coherent fashion to make the jury interested in that evidence)
- Present State’s Evidence (Testimonial Evidence, Physical Evidence)
- Challenge Defense Evidence (If defense presents evidence)
- Charge Conference
- Closing Arguments (The prosecutor outlines for the jury how and why the State has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt)
Bring the Accused to Justice
The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict. Therefore if at any time the prosecution believes the defendant is not guilty of the crime, he or she should not proceed with prosecution in the case.
Reform and Improve the System
It is an important function of the prosecutor to seek to reform and improve the administration of the criminal justice system. When inadequacies or injustices in legal system come to the prosecutor’s attention, he or she should pursue in efforts for remedial action in furtherance of a more fair system of justice.
Act Professionally and Ethically
It is the duty of the prosecutor to know and be guided by the standards of professional conduct as defined by applicable professional traditions, ethical codes, and law in the prosecutor’s jurisdiction.
Do You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney?
If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges of any kind in Los Angeles, or the Southern California area, you need to hire an attorney who has long-standing professional relationships with the Judges and District Attorneys, as well as proven track record. Don’t panic. We’re here to help. Get a FREE consultation.
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Seppi Esfandi is an expert in Criminal Law who has over 17 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.