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  1. The action of a commencing a criminal charge. For example, California Penal Code § 804 provides that “prosecution for an offense if commenced when any of the following occurs: (a) An indictment of information is filed. (b) A complaint is filed charging a misdemeanor or infraction. (c) The defendant is arraigned on a complaint that charged the defendant with a felony. (d) An arrest warrant or bench warrant is issued, provided the warrant names or describes the defendant with the same degree of particularity required for an indictment, information, or complaint.” The government agent in charge of initiating a prosecution is a prosecutor, usually referred to as a district attorney. For example, California Government Code § 26500 provides that “[the district attorney is the public prosecutor, except as otherwise provided by law [and] [t]he public prosecutor shall attend the courts, and within his or her discretion shall initiate and conduct on behalf of the people all prosecutions for public offenses.” In this context, prosecution may also refer to the government during trial. For example, after the prosecutor presents her case trying to establish the defendant’s guilt, she states “the prosecution rests,” indicating that they presented their entire case.
  2. Prosecution can also refer to the process of obtaining a patent. To illustrate, 35 U.S.C. § 132, the federal statute outlining how a patent application receives notice of rejection, states that “the Director shall notify the applicant thereof, stating the reasons for such rejection, or objection or requirement, together with such information and references as may be useful in judging of the propriety of continuing the prosecution of his application.”

[Last updated in November of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]