The Function and Responsibilities of State Attorneys and Prosecutors



Prosecutors are lawyers who represent the government and are responsible for presenting a case in a criminal trial against an individual that they think has committed a crime. Prosecutors investigate, charge, and prosecute. At the state level, prosecutors are also known as district or state attorneys.

It is essential to understand that a prosecutor’s client is not the victim. A prosecutor's client is justice itself. They must exercise discretion during each step of the criminal investigation, the trial, and beyond.

A Prosecutor’s Role and Responsibility

A prosecutor cannot possibly enforce every case and must pursue cases worthy of punishment. There are a limited number of prosecutors, courts, and prison capacity.

In addition to filing charges, prosecutors participate in every part of the investigation by obtaining search warrants, asking for fingerprints, designing covert operations, and interviewing witnesses. Prosecutors can offer plea bargains to suspects who agree to testify against others. Prosecutors may obtain new evidence and per their discretion, can grant an appeal.

Since a prosecutor decides which crimes are important to charge and are worthy of punishment, the crimes must have probable cause(the legal standard which shows there is enough evidence that a crime was most likely committed by the defendant, than not).

The American Bar Association’s Standards for When Prosecutors Charge Crimes:
  • Is there reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty?
  • Did the crime caused severe harm?
  • Does the punishment seem disproportionate to the crime?
  • Do the victim or witnesses have an ulterior motive?
  • Is the accused cooperating with law enforcement?
  • Will another Jurisdiction prosecute the crime?

The prosecutor’s role is to charge the defendant for the crime committed. It is the court’s role to hand out a sentence. The charges the prosecutor sets constrain the court. The defense will argue for a lighter sentence which the court can agree to if it is reasonable.

Plea Bargains

Prosecutors in both federal and state courts may agree to settle a case with the defense. In exchange for a guilty plea, the prosecutor may agree to seek a lesser sentence. Prosecutors may charge a more serious crime with the intent to plea bargain for a lesser sentence.

Prosecutors must answer to state and federal Constitutions, not a judge, and must follow the due process of the law. When prosecutors violate the constitution, do defendants have recourse? Defendants can initiate a review by referring them to a state bar agency, and the Department of Justice to examine claims of misconduct. Prosecutors can be removed for abusing their power.

Ronald Chapman

Contact Ronald Chapman today if you or a loved one feel the prosecution has overcharged a case or that the results of the trial were unjust, contact Ronald Chapman. Ronald Chapman is an experienced defense attorney who can help.

Criminal Defense Attorney West Palm Beach

Ronald Chapman practices criminal defense in both State and Federal Courts within the State of Florida. Since 1990, Mr. Chapman has been representing people accused of committing various types of crimes. If you are facing criminal charges in Florida, Ronald Chapman can help.

Schedule your FREE Consultation! Call (561) 832-4348 or visit his website.

Visit us at You can also connect with the West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Office online today! Ronald Chapman, an experienced criminal defense lawyer, dedicated to defending your rights. Contact him today to begin to discuss your case.


Ronald S. Chapman, P.A.
400 Clematis Street, Suite 206
West Palm Beach, FL 33401


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