Prosecuting attorney

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A prosecuting attorney is an attorney elected or appointed by local government officials to represent the state in a criminal case brought in a judicial district or designated county.

The prosecuting attorney is responsible for presenting the case against individuals suspected of violating the law, initiating and directing further criminal investigations, deciding what criminal charges to file, guiding and recommending sentences for offenders, and is the only attorney allowed to participate in grand jury proceedings. In carrying out their duties, the attorney has the authority to investigate persons, grant immunity to witnesses and alleged offenders, and plea bargains with defendants. Under the current system, prosecuting attorneys can be appointed by the chief executive of the jurisdiction or elected by local voters. 

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]