Definition of prosecutor
- (US) IPA: /ˈprɑsəˌkjuːtər/
prosecutor (plural prosecutors)
- A lawyer who decides whether to charge a person with a crime and tries to prove in court that the person is guilty.
The prosecutor got the witness to admit he was lying.
The prosecutor is the chief legal representative of the prosecution in countries with either the common law adversarial system, or the civil law inquisitorial system. The prosecution is the legal party responsible for presenting the case in a criminal trial against an individual accused of breaking the law.
Common law jurisdictions
Prosecutors are typically lawyers who possess a law degree, and are recognized as legal professionals by the court in which they intend to represent the state(the society) (that is, they have been admitted to the bar).
They usually only become involved in a criminal case once a suspect has been identified and charges need to be filed. They are typically employed by an office of the government, with safeguards in place to ensure such an office can successfully pursue the prosecution of government officials. Often, multiple offices exist in a single country, especially those countries with federal governments where sovereignty has been bifurcated or devolved in some way.
Since prosecutors are backed by the power of the state, they are usually subject to special professional responsibility rules in addition to those binding all lawyers. For example, in the United States, Rule 3.8 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct requires prosecutors to "make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information ... that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense."
Directors of Public Prosecutions
In Australia, Canada, England and Wales, Hong Kong, Northern Ireland, Ireland and South Africa, the head of the prosecuting authority is typically known as the Director of Public Prosecutions, and is appointed, not elected. A DPP may be subject to varying degrees of control by the Attorney General, usually by a formal written directive which must be published.
In Australia, at least in the case of very serious matters, the DPP will be asked by the police, during the course of the investigation, to advise them on sufficiency of evidence, and may well be asked, if he or she thinks it proper, to prepare an application to the relevant court for search, listening device or telecommunications interception warrants.
More recent constitutions, such as South Africa's or Fiji's, tend to guarantee the independence and impartiality of the DPP.
Civil law jurisdictions
Prosecutors are typically civil servants who possess a university degree in law, and additional training in the administration of justice. In some countries, such as France and Italy, they belong to the same corps of civil servants as the judges.
Socialist law jurisdictions
A Public Procurator is an office used in Socialist judicial systems which, in some ways, corresponds to that of a public prosecutor in other legal systems, but with more far-reaching responsibilities, such as handling investigations otherwise performed by branches of the police. Conversely, the policing systems in socialist countries, such as the Militsiya of the Soviet Union, were not aimed at fulfilling the same roles as police forces in Western democracies.
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