Role of the Prosecutor | Virginia Association (2023)

frequent questions

There are 120 Commonwealth lawyers elected from across the state whose job it is to seek the truth and bring justice in criminal matters within their jurisdiction. Commonwealth Attorney is the title given to elected attorneys in Virginia. In some states, elected prosecutors are known as district attorneys, prosecutors, solicitors, state attorneys, and attorneys general, among others.
Under the law, Commonwealth lawyers have many duties in addition to seeking the truth and seeking justice. Commonwealth attorneys work on behalf of the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia. By law, they must protect the constitutional and legal rights of both defendants and victims of crime.

If you ask a prosecutor in Virginia why they do what they do, most would agree that they want to serve their community, seek social justice, and do the right thing. They understand both the responsibility and the privilege of serving as advocates. If prosecutors perceive an injustice, a violation of procedural law, or a violation of someone's rights, they must act and do what is right to correct the situation. This could mean charging someone with a crime, dropping a case, or reducing the charges in a case, for example. Pleasing everyone is an impossible task, so they are tasked with doing the right thing, even when doing so is unpopular.

Commonwealth attorneys work with law enforcement to investigate and hold people accountable for violations of Virginia law. Law enforcement officers are the first port of call to determine if someone has broken Virginia law. Police officers routinely make charging decisions, which are then reviewed by a judge. A judge is a neutral and impartial representative of the Virginia Supreme Court who reviews an official's evidence to determine whether there are probable grounds for criminal prosecution. The case is then turned over to a prosecutor for review. As long as a prosecutor believes there is enough evidence to go forward, she prosecutes these cases within the strict limits of the law, the Virginia Constitution, the United States Constitution, and their codes of professional ethics.
Once the Commonwealth Public Prosecutor receives a case, it has a duty to pursue investigations, present evidence on behalf of the State and prove beyond a reasonable doubt the guilt of the defendant. Defendants are not required to prove their innocence in court. That burden falls solely on the Commonwealth of Virginia through the efforts of the Promoter.
Commonwealth prosecutors are civil servants. They are required to operate under the United States Constitution, the Virginia Constitution, the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and are governed by the ethical rules of the Supreme Court.
Prosecutors are advocates for crime victims and those without a voice. Victims of crime in Virginia enjoy the protection of the Virginia Constitution, and prosecutors play an important role in protecting victims' rights and ensuring that victims are at the center of the criminal justice system.

The rights of the criminal defendant are protected by the fourth, fifth and sixth

(Video) The Role of the Prosecutor

Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

THE FOURTH AMENDMENTprovides protection against arbitrary searches and seizures by law enforcement. Commonwealth of Virginia attorneys protect this right by reviewing all cases brought before them by law enforcement to ensure that police have not exceeded their authority and conducted an illegal search.

THE FIFTH AMENDMENTgives the defendant the right to remain silent. This right has its roots in the American legal process, in which the burden of proof rests with the prosecutor and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court. Commonwealth lawyers protect this right by examining each case for evidence of coerced testimony by a defendant who has already invoked their right to remain silent.
THE SIXTH AMENDMENTgrants the defendant the right to a speedy, public, and fair jury trial, the right to be represented by effective counsel, and the right to cross-examine prosecution witnesses. Although prosecutors do not control the judge or defense attorney, they do everything in their power to protect the defendant's right to a fair trial. This includes providing the defense attorney with all the information about a suspect's possible innocence in a timely manner. Prosecutors are also very careful about what they tell the public about any prosecution, to further protect the defendant's right to a fair trial and a fair jury.

Defendants have extensive rights under our legal system. These rights flow directly from the United States Constitution and the Virginia Constitution. It is the duty of the Commonwealth Prosecutor to do everything in his power to protect the rights of anyone charged in criminal proceedings.

(Video) What is the role of the prosecutor?

While many Virginia state and local elected officials are working hard to make their communities safer, lawyers in the Commonwealth have a legal and ethical duty to keep the public safe. In the most serious criminal cases, prosecutors often recommend prison sentences to isolate dangerous individuals from public view so they cannot harm others. In other cases, prosecutors recommend counseling, redress, diversion, or other alternative solutions to seek justice and work to ensure that people have access to the services they need to stay out of the criminal justice system.

The role of a prosecutor is very different from that of a defense attorney. While both must work within the law and the code of ethics, a defense attorney's job is to diligently represent their client, regardless of the person's fault.
Unlike defense attorneys, prosecutors are responsible for protecting the rights of victims and defendants. Prosecutors are tasked with ensuring that the system is fair and accountable for all.

1.How and why do prosecutors get so much power?

ANSWERS: The duties and powers of Commonwealth Attorneys are determined by Virginia law.
§15.2-1627. Duties of the Community Attorneys and their Auxiliaries.
A.No Commonwealth Counselor or Deputy Commonwealth Counselor shall, in the exercise of his office in civil matters, act as counsel to the governmental body and to any body, department, agency, official or employee of his county or city; draft or prepare municipal or municipal decrees; defend or initiate any legal action involving the county or city or their councils, departments or agencies or their officers and employees; or otherwise advise or represent the county or city, its directors, departments, agencies, officers and employees, except in matters relating to criminal law enforcement within the county or city.
B.The Commonwealth Public Attorney and the Commonwealth Assistant Public Attorney are part of the law enforcement agency of the county or city from which they are elected or appointed and have the duties and powers imposed by common law, including the duty to read all arrests. warrants, to file charges or information alleging a crime, and may, in its sole discretion, pursue Class 1, 2, and 3 misdemeanors or any other violation punishable by imprisonment or a fine of $500 or more, or imprisonment and also a fine. He must comply with all forfeitures and comply with all obligations imposed on him by Section 2.2-3126. He can enforce the provisions of Section 18.2-268.3, 29.1-738.2 or 46.2-341.26:3 (DUI Denial Laws).

2.Do prosecutors make the law?

ANSWERS: Prosecutors do not decide what constitutes a crime; the Virginia General Assembly does.

3.What oversight mechanisms are in place to ensure that prosecutors behave ethically?

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ANSWERS:The truth: Commonwealth lawyers are MORE accountable than any other actor in the criminal justice system. Almost all official acts by prosecutors are performed in open court for viewing by any member of the public or the media.
Commonwealth prosecutors must be elected by the people every four years.
They are constantly scrutinized by criminal defense attorneys, the media, crime victims, police, and watchdog organizations.
They are overseen by local judges, the Virginia Courts of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.
Commonwealth lawyers are subject to strict ethical rules established by the Virginia State Bar Association, in addition to the ethical rules applicable to all lawyers. Failure to follow these rules could result in loss of license and impeachment.
Prosecutors must comply with state and local laws, the Virginia Constitution, the US Constitution, various laws and regulations regarding disclosure and disclosure.
Commonwealth advocates routinely go beyond the legal requirements of "open records" when the public interest requires the provision of additional information.

4.Is the activity of prosecutors open to the public?

ANSWERS: The vast majority of prosecutors' work is public. Courts are public, most court records are public unless sealed by a judge, and our work is widely reported in the media. However, there are limited times when a prosecutor cannot speak publicly about a case. This is to protect the integrity of an investigation or to protect the defendant's right to a fair trial. The public can use Virginia's open records laws to request court documents and information. You can also visit the local promoter in person! They will be happy to see you and answer your questions.

5.Why do prosecutors put people in jail when it's clear they have mental health problems, are drug addicts, or are homeless?

ANSWERS: Our promoters care deeply about the well-being of all Virgos, especially those who need help. People with mental health issues, substance use issues, or homelessness are responsible for their behavior under the law, just like the rest of us. Many Commonwealth attorneys participate in and are on staff with alternative sentencing programs. Some examples of these programs are drug courts, mental health courts, DUI courts, community courts, and veterans courts. These programs aim to keep people out of prison by providing solutions and resources to the people who need help the most. Many of these programs are not funded by the state. Some elected prosecutors are seeking outside input, as the Commonwealth Attorney in Virginia Beach has done...

6.Do prosecutors convict people?

ANSWERS: Prosecutors don't convict people, but judges and juries do. Prosecutors give trial recommendations to the judge. Our sentencing recommendations are based on the nature of the crime, the defendant's criminal record, historical sentences for similar crimes, the law, and the interests of justice. Race, gender, sexual orientation, occupation, or social status play no role in the prosecutor's recommendations for a verdict.
Judges are free to ignore prosecutors' recommendations, and do so to varying degrees in each jurisdiction. The exceptions to this are the state minimum requirements set by our Commonwealth legislatures for judges to follow.

7.Do prosecutors file charges against the police when they mistreat, injure or kill a citizen?

ANSWERS: Law enforcement related offenses fall into the rare case where the prosecutor is more directly involved in the prosecution's decision. In these cases, Virginia Commonwealth attorneys take their responsibility to bring charges very seriously when appropriate, regardless of the offender's occupation. We also take very seriously our responsibility to ensure that a fee decision is properly implemented. In some cases, circumstances may justify the services of a special prosecutor outside of the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, but many cases are properly handled by the local Commonwealth's Attorney, who conducts his investigations without fear or favoritism.

8.I know most prosecutors do a good job, but what if a Virginia prosecutor commits a misdemeanor? Are there consequences?

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ANSWERS: Yes. Prosecutors are subject to intense scrutiny from courts, the media, the Virginia Bar Association, and defense attorneys. The penalties prosecutors would pay for misconduct, anger, case dismissal, loss of license to practice law, and even prison.

9.What is the position of Commonwealth lawyers on police body cameras?

ANSWERS: Virginia prosecutors believe body-worn cameras (BWCs) are a good thing. However, many areas of the state simply do not have the financial and human resources to effectively implement body cameras. Although Virginia law does not require body cameras, in 2015 the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services issued a model body camera policy. 🇧🇷🇧🇷 The attorneys for the Commonwealth of Virginia believe that any local jurisdiction wishing to implement the BWC should do so in accordance with the Model Policy and in cooperation with other criminal justice stakeholders. In jurisdictions across the country, the implementation of BWC's findings has dramatically increased the resources needed by police departments, courts, and prosecutors to review, edit, manage, and store the amount of digital evidence produced by BWC.

10Are Commonwealth lawyers for or against efforts to reform the criminal justice system?

ANSWERS:Commonwealth Lawyers in Virginia have been at the forefront of criminal justice reform for decades. While each Commonwealth prosecutor has a unique perspective, our prosecutors have pioneered the use of diversion and alternative sentencing to seek justice, provide rehabilitation opportunities and preserve limited prison resources for those who pose a serious threat to our citizens.
Virtually every jurisdiction in Virginia has at least one alternative court or alternative initiative, and some have as many as 10! E - all of these programs were initiated by the local Community Advocate. As more and more such initiatives emerge each year, it's clear that the attorneys in the Commonwealth of Virginia are absolutely committed to making our justice system modern, resource-efficient, effective, and fair to all.

11How is the death penalty administered in Virginia?

ANSWERS: Under Virginia law, the death penalty is reserved for only the worst of the worst cases of murder. Virginia prosecutors take their role in deciding when to seek the death penalty very seriously and will only do so when the facts warrant it, after a thorough investigation and communication with the victim's family.

12Why are so many children charged in criminal courts as adults?

ANSWERS:In Virginia, prosecution as an adult is reserved for juveniles charged with the most serious types of crimes. Unfortunately, being under 18 does not prevent anyone from seriously injuring or killing another person. Virginia prosecutors take their role in deciding when to prosecute a juvenile as an adult very seriously. We only do so when the facts justify it after a thorough investigation of not only the crime but alsobesides that, besides morethe rehabilitation options available to the youth in question.

13Did the Virginia Commonwealth lawyers address the allegations of racial discrimination in the sentencing?

(Video) Role of prosecutor in criminal justice administration

ANSWERS: Virginia prosecutors are sensitive and deeply concerned about racial disparities in our criminal justice system. However, we also know that the root causes of these differences are complex, systemic, and go back many centuries. Virginia prosecutors are determined to achieve racial justice. While solutions to systemic racism are well beyond the reach of prosecutors, we stand ready to work with all stakeholders to identify and eliminate racial injustices in Virginia's criminal justice system.

14Why are criminal justice reform efforts so focused on defendants? Are victims being overlooked in this effort?

ANSWERS: We must never lose sight of the true victims: those who have not chosen to have their lives affected by the criminal actions of others. While defendants are entitled to their constitutionally protected rights, they must also be held accountable for the actions they choose.

quince.Virginia marijuana law is so extreme, what are Commonwealth lawyers doing about it?

ANSWERS: Virginia laws, including those affecting marijuana possession, are made by the legislature, not prosecutors. Currently, under Virginia law, possession of marijuana carries a lesser penalty than most other crimes, including underage possession of alcohol. while we're goneallAs we oppose changing Virginia's marijuana laws, we believe that such a change would only occur after a full and open public dialogue about all the different forms and concentrations of marijuana products available today and the effects of marijuana: must consume. VACA strives to work with legislators to study the implications of increasing the legality of marijuana use.

sixteen.Are Virginia prosecutors following court rules for serving documents to defense attorneys?

ANSWERS:Commonwealth of Virginia attorneys have long recognized that Virginia court rules governing discovery have not kept pace with the rest of the nation and therefore do not always support our goal of a fair system of justice. fair and efficient criminal For this reason, most Commonwealth law firms have historically engaged in much broader investigative practices than are required by the rules. Thanks to the leadership of Commonwealth prosecutors, Virginia's criminal investigation rules are now aligning with what most Commonwealth prosecutors have been doing for years. On July 1, 2020, new rules that balance transparency and fairness with the need to protect crime victims and witnesses will go into effect. Virginia Commonwealth attorneys were proud to support these new rules and took an active role in drafting them. We are committed to making Virginia's criminal justice system fair and safe for all citizens.


What is the role of prosecutor? ›

A prosecutor's duty is, in fact, to search for the truth, assist the court to arrive at the truth and to restore justice among the community, the victim and the accused according to the law and the dictates of conscience" (UNODC, 2015, para.

What is the role of the prosecutor quizlet? ›

A prosecutor is a lawyer. The legal representative of the people of a city, county or state. They have the authority to bring charges, dismiss charges and modify charges. The prosecution decides who,what when and how an individual will be charged.

Why is the prosecutor's role so very important? ›

Prosecutors are the gatekeepers of the criminal legal system. They decide whether to prosecute and what to charge. Their harsh and discriminatory practices have fueled a vast expansion of incarceration as the answer to societal ills over the last several decades.

What are the three main functions of the prosecution pillar? ›

The role of the National Prosecution Service in the Criminal Justice System is two-fold: (1) to investigate allegations that a crime has been committed; and (2) to prosecute all cases involving violations of penal laws. It is a quasi-judicial organization expected to deal with fair execution of laws.

Who is a prosecutor Short answer? ›

It is the public prosecutor who represents the interests of the state. Their role begins after the police have conducted the investigation and filed the charge sheet in the court. They have no role to play in the investigation. The Prosecutor must conduct the prosecution on behalf of the State.

What is the role of the prosecutor in a criminal investigation? ›

decides which cases should be prosecuted; determines the appropriate charges in more serious or complex cases, and advises the police during the early stages of investigations; prepares cases and presents them at court; and. provides information, assistance and support to victims and prosecution witnesses.

What must be at the core of the prosecutor's role? ›

(a) The prosecutor should act with diligence and promptness to investigate, litigate, and dispose of criminal charges, consistent with the interests of justice and with due regard for fairness, accuracy, and rights of the defendant, victims, and witnesses.

Who does the prosecutor represent? ›

Prosecutors are the gatekeepers of the criminal law. They represent the public interest in the criminal justice process.

Which of the following is the primary purpose of the prosecutor during a trial? ›

The primary, overall job of the prosecutor's office is to represent the government in criminal cases.

What is prosecution process? ›

Prosecution ensures that persons suspected of crimes are tried in a court of law and sentenced if convicted. The successful prosecution of criminals is an essential part of a society based on the rule of law.

What is the difference between the law enforcement and prosecution pillars? ›

Law enforcement controls arrest and booking; prosecution controls preliminary investigation and filing of informations; courts control arraignment, trial, sentencing, probation, suspended sentence and appeal; corrections control incarceration in jail, parole, pardon and the serving of sentence; the community, ...

What is a prosecutor also known as? ›

Prosecuting attorneys are also referred to as district attorneys, public prosecutors, or state's attorneys. In the federal system, the equivalent of a district attorney is a United States Attorney, each appointed by the President. [Last updated in August of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]

What is a prosecutor in law? ›

A public prosecutor is a person who prosecutes accused persons in the magistrates' courts on behalf of the State. He/she leads evidence by the State witnesses and crossexamines the witnesses of the accused. Approximately 90% of a public prosecutor's work takes place in court.

How powerful is a prosecutor? ›

They have the power to divert people from incarceration – or not. They have the power to offer a plea bargain – or not. Charging decisions and plea bargain offers are made at the sole discretion of prosecutors. Some prosecutors seek a longer sentence if a defendant takes a case to trial instead of pleading guilty.

How does the prosecutor role interact with the role of the police? ›

Prosecutors must play a prominent role at pre-trial stage

The police conduct the entire investigation and present it in the form of a charge sheet before the magistrate. This chargesheet also includes the police's decision on whether the accused should be prosecuted.

Is prosecutor higher than attorney? ›

The Answer is None.

Both lawyers and prosecutors are lawyers. They have completed their law degrees and passed the bar exam in a particular state they wish to practice.

What is the difference between a lawyer and a prosecutor? ›

The role of a lawyer is to represent clients in court. They often work in law firms or private practices, handling cases from beginning to end. A prosecutor is an attorney employed by the Government and prosecutes people accused of breaking the law.

What is the difference between attorney and prosecutor? ›

The prosecutor must charge the accused with a specific crime or crimes, then present evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. The defense attorney must defend their client against criminal charges. The client is innocent until proven guilty.


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