A prosecutor is the government's attorney of the prosecution in countries adopting the common law adversarial system or the civil law inquisitorial system. The prosecution is the legal party responsible for presenting the case against an individual suspected of breaking the law in a criminal trial.
The prosecutor works with law enforcement officers to guarantee that justice is done. He or she makes the decision whether or not to bring charges for a crime and against whom the charges will be brought. The prosecutor must influence the jury or judge "beyond a reasonable doubt" of every information required to constitute the crime charged. The prosecutor must both abstain from the use of inappropriate methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction and must use every accessible legitimate means to obtain just convictions.
Common law jurisdictions
Prosecutors possess a university degree in law and are recognized as legal professionals by the court in which they intend to represent the state. They generally only become implicated in a criminal case once charges require to be laid. They are normally employed by an office of the government with safeguards in place to ensure such an office can effectively pursue the prosecution of government officials.
Being backed by the authority of the state, prosecutors are generally subject to singular professional responsibility rules in addition to those binding all lawyers as a whole.
Directors of Public Prosecutions (DPP)
The head of the prosecuting authority is usually known as the Director of Public Prosecutions and is designated, not elected; in Australia, Canada, England and Wales, Hong Kong, Northern Ireland and South Africa. A DPP may be subject to altering degrees of control by the Attorney-General, generally by a formal written directive which must be published.
- In Australia at least, in the case of very serious themes, the DPP will be requested by the police throughout the course of the research to recommend them on sufficiency of evidence and may well be asked, if he or she thinks it appropriate, to organize an application to the pertinent court for search, listening device or telecommunications interception guarantees.
- South Africa's or Fiji's have recent constitutions where tend to guarantee the independence and neutrality of the DPP.
- A Public Prosecutor, in India, is similar to the US District Attorney. In court the state is represented by The Public Prosecutor.
- In the United States, depending on the legal jurisdiction, the director of any offices may be known by any of various names and may be either designate or elected. This should not be confused with Corporation Counsel, who usually handles only civil themes involving monetary harms, and does not handle criminal prosecutions.
- In Canada the expression for a Prosecutor is Crown Attorney or Crown Counsel.
- In Scotland, although Scots law is a mixed system; its inheritance in civil law leads to a position more significant of a civil law jurisdiction. Here all prosecutions are carried out by Procurators Fiscal and Advocates Depute on behalf of the Lord Advocate, and, in theory, they can direct researches by the police. In very serious cases a Procurator Fiscal, Advocate Depute or even the Lord Advocate may take accusation of a police research. It is at the discretion of the Procurator Fiscal; Advocate Depute or Lord Advocate to take a prosecution to court and to decide on whether to prosecute it under solemn process or abstract procedure. Other remedies are open to a prosecutor in Scotland, including fiscal fines and non-court based interventions such as rehabilitation and social work. Procurators fiscal will generally refer cases involving minors to Children's Hearings, which are not courts of law, but a panel of lay members empowered to act in the interests of the child.
Civil law jurisdictions
Prosecutors are usually civil servants who possess a university degree in law and additional tuition in the management of justice. In several countries, such as France, they belong to the same group of civil servants as the judges.
- In Brazil, the public prosecutors form a body of independent magistrates (the Ministério Público) working both at the federal and state level. The procuradores da República - federal prosecutors - are divided in three ranks: the "procuradores da República" (federal prosecutors) preside before single judges and lower courts, "procuradores regionais da República" (prosecutors who preside before federal appellate courts) and "subprocuradores gerais da República" (prosecutors who preside before the superior federal courts). The Procurador Geral da República heads the federal body and tries cases before the Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF), Brazil's highest court, in accusation of judicial review and the judgment of criminal offences perpetrated by federal legislators, members of the cabinet and the President of Brazil. The job most important of the prosecutor is to promote justice; as such they have the obligation of not only trying criminal cases, but, if through the trial they become convinced of a defendant's innocence, requesting the judge to acquit him. The prosecutor's office has always the last word on whether criminal offences will or will not be charged, with the exception of those unusual cases in which Brazilian law permits for private prosecution. Also, they are in charge of inspecting police work and directing the police in their investigations. Beside their criminal duties, Brazilian prosecutors are among those authorized by the Brazilian constitution to carry action against private individuals, commercial enterprises and the federal, state and municipal governments, in the defence of minorities, the environment, consumers and the civil society in general.
- In France, the prosecutor, or Procureur de la République (or Procureur Général in an Appeal Court or Avocat Général in the Court of Cassation) is supported by deputies (substitutes). He opens preliminary investigation, and if required asks for the nomination of an investigating magistrate (a Juge d'Instruction) to direct a judiciary information. In the case of information led by a judge, the prosecutor does not lead the investigation, but only lays down the reach of the crimes that the judge and law enforcement forces examine upon; he may, like defence attorneys, request or propose further enquiries. Through a criminal trial, the prosecutor has to lay the case in front of the trier of fact (judges or jury). He usually proposes a certain verdict, which the court has no responsibility to follow — the court may decide on a higher or lower sentence. The procureur has also some other duties regarding more usually the administration of justice.
- In Germany, the Staatsanwalt (literally 'state attorney') does not just have the "professional responsibility" not to refuse exculpatory information, but is necessary by law to energetically determine such situation.
- In Japan, the public prosecutors (検察官, kensatsu-kan?) are professional officials who have significant powers of examination, prosecution, superintendence of criminal performance and so on. Prosecutors can direct police for research purposes and sometimes investigate directly. Only prosecutors can prosecute criminals in principle and prosecutors can decide to prosecute or not. High-ranking officials of the Ministry of Justice are widely prosecutors.
- In Poland, the Public Prosecutor General is the highest ranking prosecutor office in Poland. Below him is the National Public Prosecutor's Office and Chief Military Prosecutor Office.
Socialist law jurisdictions
A Public Procurator is an office used in Socialist judicial systems that in some manners correspond to that of a public prosecutor in other legal systems, but with more far obtaining responsibilities such as management researches otherwise executed by branches of the police.
- Soviet Union
In the Soviet Union, from 1936, the highest functionary of the Office of the Public Procurator was known as "Public Procurator". After 1946 the office was called Procurator General of the USSR.
- People's Republic of China
A Public Procurator is a position in the People's Republic of China, similar to both detective and public prosecutor. Legally they are bound by Public Procurators Law of the People's Republic of China. The functions and duties of public procurators are as follows: Control the enforcement of laws according to law, Public prosecution on behalf of the State, Investigate criminal cases directly accepted by the People's Procuratorates as supplied by law and other functions and duties as supplied by law
In Vietnam, the Supreme People's Procuracy is the highest office of public procurators.
In several countries, the prosecutor's administration is immediately subordinate to the executive branch (e.g the US Attorney General is a member of the President's cabinet). This relationship theoretically and in some cases practically directs to situations where the public accuser will either falsely accuse people (in Putin's Russia) or reject to charge arrested persons at all, if that serves political aims. Various thinkers feel such results are incompatible with basic human rights and constitutional ideals.
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Some countries, such as Brazil, the hierarchies of prosecutors are established with the same liberties the judges habitually enjoy. They are only responsible to the parliament and the chief prosecutor is generally designated for a long period (seven years usually) or even a lifetime. In terms of political theory, this would represent the independent prosecution becomes the fourth support in the architecture of power division, also the legislative, executive and judicial branches.
In Hungary, the new government elaborated the system of "private accusing" in 2003 as an answer, denotation person(s) or a private entity can directly appeal the courts to hold trial against someone they feel is culpable of a crime, should the prosecutor refuse to accuse him/her. If a reconsidered judge agrees with the private accusing, a judge selected from a different court district will hold the trial and oblige a prosecutor to represent the charges. Such creations may damage the method of division of powers more than they solution problems of assumed or existing bias.
In Brazil there is a related provision which transmits the power to prosecute to the crime victim if, and only if, the prosecutor in charge of the case fails to make a resolution to file or drop the charges in the deadline created by the penal procedure code. Although contested by some, this condition is often thought of as welcomed forms of public organize of the prosecutor's office activities.