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What types of things do District Attorneys do? What are some of the most typical cases?

#attorney #criminal-justice I love to help people that are going through a hard time.

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Kim’s Answer

As a prosecutor in the DA's office, there may be several different divisions you could be assigned to. For example, some prosecutors work on felony cases, others on misdemeanors. Additionally, there could be special courts - some places have "Veteran's Courts" where they try to help vets get back on their feet.

The head of the overall operation is the District Attorney. It is often an elected position. Therefore, there is a concern about being "too soft" on crime and how that will affect re-election chances. The DA will set policy. For example, he/she may say that it is a waste of resources (time and money) to prosecute possession of marijuana cases. Regardless what your personal opinion is, you will adhere to his/her wishes.

Prosecutors prosecute. While it is nice to want to help people out, it's all a matter of perspective. For example, someone I know was caught in possession of cocaine. He had to pay a lot of money in attorney and court fees, but, stayed out of prison. He had to attend counselling classes, report to probation weekly, get drug tested all the time, etc. It cost him a LOT of money. But, he learned his lesson. So, yes, he was helped. A lot of people facing criminal charges don't have money. Then what do you do? How do you give someone a break when they can't afford it? I don't have the answer to that.

Another thing prosecutors do is settle cases. There is lots of negotiating. Very few cases actually go to trial. So, let's say someone is arrested for Burglary (felony). They might plea bargain it down to Criminal Trespass (misdemeanor), along with various fees/fines/ community service, etc. Or, they could put somebody on Deferred Adjudication. With that, after a certain amount of time with no other criminal problems, the charge is dismissed.

Misdemeanor cases: theft (below a certain value), simple assault, criminal trespass, DWI, public intoxication, fighting, marijuana (small quantities)

Felony cases: Aggravated assault, robbery, kidnapping, arson, DWI (3rd offense- Texas), Drugs, burglary, theft (high $$$), credit card abuse, domestic violence, weapons possession

A lot of attorneys get their start in the DA's office. It will allow you to learn how they operate. You may decide after that to go into criminal defense. Many others start out working for Legal Aid, where you help people with various sorts of cases other than just criminal: apartment evictions, for example. I suggest you research that a little bit, and see if it isn't something you'd rather be doing. Here is the link for New Mexico's Legal Aid.


Kim gave a great overview in her comment. I wanted to add that there are also other services related to your desire to help people going through a hard time, that DA offices sometimes perform. It will depend on your local office, though. My local DA has a Victim Services Unit, where people work with those who have been victimized by crimes to keep them updated on the legal proceedings and try to get them what they need. We also have Sentencing Planners, who interview defendants to see if they would be a good fit for our specialized courts (like Drug Court) or other programs. We also have a Communications & Policy team that takes a bigger picture look at everything going on in criminal justice locally. Eva T.

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Ramesh’s Answer

Kim gave you a nice overview of what kinds of cases you will typically deal with as a prosecutor. Remember that prosecutors are GOVERNMENT employees, and the person who heads up the office you work in will likely be an elected official. You will have supervisors, who will oversee your work and give you guidance on which cases should take priority.
You will be doing the PUBLIC's work--so that means not all cases brought to the prosecutor's office will end up being filed (prosecuted) - a huge, very important part of your job is to determine that enough probable cause exists, and enough evidence is available to present in court to move a case forward.
You will work closely with law enforcement to do this.