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. Typically, the prosecutor
represents the government in the case brought against the accused
Common law jurisdictions
1.1 Directors of Public Prosecutions
1.4 United States
2 Civil law jurisdictions
2.8 South Korea
Socialist law jurisdictions
3.1 People's Republic of China
4 Institutional independence
5 Private prosecution
6 See also
9 External links
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 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 in 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." Not all U.S. states adopt the model
rules; however, U.S. Supreme Court cases and other appellate cases
have ruled that such disclosure is required. Typical sources of
ethical requirements imposed on prosecutors come from appellate court
opinions, state or federal court rules, and state or federal statutes
Directors of Public Prosecutions
In Australia, Canada, England and Wales, Hong Kong, Northern Ireland,
Republic of Ireland, Trinidad & Tobago, Kenya, 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, the Offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions
institute prosecutions for indictable offences on behalf of the
Crown. 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
More recent constitutions, such as South Africa's, tend to guarantee
the independence and impartiality of the DPP.
In Canada, public prosecutors in most provinces are called Crown
Attorney or Crown Counsel. They are generally appointed by the
Scots law is a mixed system, its civil law jurisdiction
indicates its civil law heritage. Here, all prosecutions are carried
out by Procurators Fiscal and Advocates Depute on behalf of the Lord
Advocate, and, in theory, they can direct investigations by the
police. In very serious cases, a Procurator Fiscal,
Advocate Depute or
even the Lord Advocate, may take charge of a police investigation. It
is at the discretion of the Procurator Fiscal,
Advocate Depute, or
Advocate to take a prosecution to court, and to decide on whether
or not to prosecute it under solemn procedure or summary procedure.
Other remedies are open to a prosecutor in Scotland, including fiscal
fines and non-court based interventions, such as rehabilitation and
social work. All prosecutions are handled within the Crown Office and
Procurator Fiscal Service. Procurators fiscal will usually 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
In the United States, the director of a prosecution office may be
known by any of several names depending on the jurisdiction, most
commonly District Attorney.
The prosecution is the legal party responsible for presenting the case
against an individual or a corporation suspected of breaking the law,
initiating and directing further criminal investigations, guiding and
recommending the sentencing of offenders, and are the only attorneys
allowed to participate in grand jury proceedings.
The titles of prosecutors in state courts vary from state to state and
level of government (i.e. city, county and state) and include the
terms District Attorney (in New York, California, Texas, Pennsylvania,
Delaware, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Georgia, Nevada, Wisconsin,
Oregon, and Oklahoma), City Attorney, Commonwealth's Attorney (in
Kentucky and Virginia), County Attorney (in Arizona), County
Prosecutor (in New Jersey,
Ohio and Indiana), District Attorney
General (in Tennessee), Prosecuting Attorney (in Hawaii, Idaho,
Michigan, Washington counties, and West Virginia, and in Missouri
except cities that have "City Attorney" prosecutors), State's Attorney
(in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, and Vermont), State
Attorney General (in
Delaware and Rhode Island), and
Solicitor (South Carolina). Prosecutors are most often chosen
through local elections, and typically hire other attorneys as
deputies or assistants to conduct most of the actual work of the
United States Attorneys, appointed by the President and
confirmed by the Senate, represent the federal government in federal
court, in both civil and criminal cases. Private attorneys general can
bring criminal cases on behalf of private parties in some states.
Prosecutors are required by state and federal laws to follow certain
rules, such as they must be elected by the people of that county, and
must disclose material evidence to the defense due to the 1963 Supreme
Court ruling of
Brady v. Maryland
Brady v. Maryland and other cases and statutes.
Failure to follow these rules may result in prosecutorial misconduct
findings, although a 2013 investigation found that actual discipline
for prosecutorial misconduct was lacking.
Prosecutors are also tasked with seeking justice in their
prosecutions. Prosecutors in some jurisdictions have the discretion to
not pursue criminal charges, even when there is probable cause, if the
Prosecutor determines that there is no reasonable likelihood of
conviction. Additionally, Prosecutors often have the discretion to
dismiss charges after an indictment, but before trial, through the use
of voluntary dismissal or nolle prosequi. In a famous case outlining
the duties of a prosecutor, the U.S. Supreme Court stated,
“…therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a
case, but that justice shall be done… He may prosecute with
earnestness and vigor – indeed, he should do so. But, while he may
strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as
much his duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a
wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring
about a just one.” Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78 (1935)
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.
In Belgium, the Senior Crown prosecutor, or Procureur du Roi /
Procureur des Konings (or Procureur Général / Procureur-Generaal in
appellate courts and in the Supreme Court), is supported by crown
prosecutors (substituts / substituten). He opens preliminary
investigations and can hold a suspect in custody for 24 hours. When
necessary, a Crown prosecutor will request an examining judge (juge
d'instruction/onderzoeksrechter) be appointed to lead a judicial
inquest. With a judge investigating, Crown prosecutors do not conduct
the interrogatories, but simply lays out the scope of the crimes which
the judge and law enforcement forces investigate (la saisine). Like
defense counsel, Crown prosecutors can request or suggest further
investigation be carried out. The Crown prosecutor is in charge of
policy decisions and may prioritize cases and procedures as need be.
During a criminal trial, prosecutors must introduce and explain the
case to the trier, i.e., judges or jury. They generally suggest a
reasonable sentence which the court is not obligated to follow; the
court may decide on a tougher or softer sentence. Crown prosecutors
also have a number of administrative duties. They may advise the court
during civil actions. Under Belgian law, judges and prosecutors are
judicial officers with equal rank and pay. The Minister of Justice can
order but not forbid a criminal investigation (droit d'injonction
positive / positief injunctierecht).
Main article: Ministério Público (Brazil)
In Brazil, the public prosecutors form a body of autonomous civil
servants - the Ministério Público (literally Public Ministry) -
working both at the federal and state level. The procuradores da
República - federal prosecutors - are divided in three ranks,
according to the jurisdiction of the courts before which they
officiate, thus the "procuradores da República" (federal prosecutors)
officiate before single judges and lower courts, "procuradores
regionais da República" (prosecutors who officiate before federal
appellate courts), and "subprocuradores gerais da República"
(prosecutors who officiate 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
charge of judicial review and the judgment of criminal offenses
perpetrated by federal legislators, members of the cabinet, and the
President of Brazil. At the state level, the career is usually divided
in "promotores de Justiça" (state prosecutors), which officiate
before the lower courts, and "procuradores de Justiça" (prosecutors
officiating before the states' court of appeals). There are also
military prosecutors whose career, although linked to the federal
prosecutors, is divided in a manner similar to state prosecutors.
Brazil the prosecutors' main job is to promote justice, as such
they have the duty of not only trying criminal cases, but, if during
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 offenses will or will not be
charged, with the exception of those rare cases in which Brazilian law
allows for private prosecution. In such cases, the prosecutor will
officiate as custos legis, being responsible to ensure that justice is
indeed carried out. Although empowered by law to do so, prosecutors
conduct criminal investigations only in major cases, usually involving
police or public officials' wrongdoings. Also, they are in charge of
external control over police activity (art. 129, VII, of Brazilian
Federal Constituition) and requesting diligences and the
initiation of a police investigation (art. 129, VIII, of Brazilian
Federal Constitution). The power of individual prosecutors to hold
criminal investigations is still controversial and, although massively
supported by judges, prosecutors and the general population, it is
being contested before the Supremo Tribunal Federal.
Law 12.830/2013, the "delegado de polícia" (police
officer chief), as the police authority, is responsible for conducting
the criminal investigation in
Brazil by means of a police
investigation, named "inquérito policial", or other procedure
provided by law that has the purpose of ascertaining the
circumstances, materiality and authorship of criminal offenses.
Similar provision is also found in art. 4º of the Brazilian Code of
Criminal Procedure and in art. 144, §4º, of the Brazilian
Beside their criminal duties, Brazilian prosecutors are among those
authorized by the Brazilian constitution to bring action against
private individuals, commercial enterprises, and the federal, state
and municipal governments, in the defense of minorities, the
environment, consumers, and the civil society in general.
Main article: Ministère public (France)
See also: Parquet (legal)
In France, the Office of the
Prosecutor includes a Chief Prosecutor,
or Procureur de la République (or procureur général in an appellate
court or in the Supreme Court) assisted by deputy prosecutors (avocats
généraux) and assistant prosecutors (substituts). The Chief
Prosecutor generally initiates preliminary investigations and, if
necessary, asks an examining judge, or juge d'instruction, be assigned
to lead a formal judicial investigation. When an investigation is led
by a judge, the prosecutor plays a supervisory role, defining the
scope of the crimes being examined by the judge and law enforcement
forces. Like defense counsel, the chief prosecutor may petition or
motion for further investigation. During criminal proceedings,
prosecutors are responsible for presenting the case at trial to either
the bench or the jury. Prosecutors generally suggest advisory
sentencing guidelines, but the sentence remains at the court's
discretion to decide, to increase or reduce as it sees fit. In
addition, prosecutors have several administrative duties.
Prosecutors are considered magistrates under French law, as in most
civil law countries. While the defense and the plaintiff are both
represented by common lawyers, who sit (on chairs) on the courtroom
floor, the prosecutor sits on a platform as the judge does, although
he doesn't participate in deliberation. Judges and prosecutors are
trained at the same school, and regard one other as colleagues.
In Germany, the Staatsanwalt (literally 'state attorney') is a
life-tenured public official in the senior judicial service belonging
to the same corps as judges. The Staatsanwalt heads pre-trial criminal
investigations, decides whether to press a charge or drop it, and
represents the government in criminal courts. He not only has the
"professional responsibility" not to withhold exculpatory information,
but is also required by law to actively determine such circumstances
and to make them available to the defendant or his/her defense
attorney. If he is not convinced of the defendant's guilt, the state
attorney is required to plead against or in favour of the defendant
according to the prosecutor's own assessment (RiStBV, No. 138/139).
Prosecution is compulsory if the prosecutor has sufficient evidence to
In Italy, a Prosecutor's Office is composed of a Chief Prosecutor
(procuratore capo) assisted by deputy prosecutors (procuratori
aggiunti) and assistant prosecutors (sostituti procuratori).
Italy are judicial officers just like judges and are
ceremonially referred to as Pubblico Ministero/ Public Ministry' (or
Italian Prosecutors officiate as custos legis, being responsible to
ensure that justice is indeed carried out. They are obligated under
the Constitution to initiate preliminary investigations once they are
informed or take personal notice of a criminal act, the so-called
notitia criminis, or receive a bill of complaint. They can make direct
investigations or conduct them through orders and directives given to
(judicial) police detectives (which anyway have the chance to make
their own parallel investigations in coordination with the
Prosecutor): if enough evidence has been gathered in order to proceed,
the prosecution is compulsory and it must move from preliminary
investigations to initiate trial proceedings. At trial, the
prosecuting attorney has to handle the prosecution but is prohibited
from withholding exculpatory evidence, for they have to promote
justice, which means that they have the duty of not only trying
criminal cases, but, to request the judge to acquit him if, during the
trial, they become convinced of a defendant's innocence, or agree that
there is no evidence, beyond any reasonable doubt, of his guiltiness.
In appellate courts, the Office of the
Prosecutor is called Procura
Generale and the Chief
Prosecutor Procuratore Generale (PG). The
Procuratore Generale presso la
Corte di Cassazione
Corte di Cassazione is the Chief
Prosecutor before the Corte di Cassazione, the Supreme Court
Prosecutors are allowed during their career to act in the other's
stead, but a recent ruling by the Italian Constitutional Court stated
that prosecutors, who wish to become judges, must relocate to another
region and are prohibited to sit or hear trials that they themselves
In Japan, public prosecutors kensatsu-kan (検察官) are professional
officials who have considerable powers of investigation, prosecution,
superintendence of criminal execution and so on. Prosecutors can
direct police for investigation purposes, and sometimes investigate
directly. Only prosecutors can prosecute criminals in principle, and
prosecutors can decide whether to prosecute or not. High-ranking
officials of the Ministry of Justice are largely prosecutors.
The highest ranking prosecutor office of the Prokuratura in
the Prokurator Generalny (General Prosecutor) - chief of the
Prokuratura Generalna (General
Prosecutor Office). The GP has 5
deputies. Structure of Public
Poland is 4-level: General
Prosecutor Office --> Appellation
Prosecutor Offices (11) -->
Prosecutor Offices (46) --> Regional
Prosecutors are the public officials who are members of the ministry
Prosecutors can conduct crime investigations directly or indirectly.
They are responsible for the entire process of investigations and
court prosecutions. Since Korean modern law was designed after
continental system, the role of Korean prosecutors is similar or
identical to that of European equivalents in commanding
investigations, determining indictable cases and prosecuting process.
Korean prosecutors take pride in successful prosecutions of former
presidents(1995) and sons of the incumbent presidents(1997 and 2002).
Besides, they have made important contributions to convicting many
corrupt high-ranking officials and business leaders. A prosecutor,
in Korea, has the power to prohibit a defendant or an accused
individual from departing the Republic of Korea via an International
In Sweden, public prosecutors are lawyers who work out of the Swedish
Office of Public Prosecutions (Åklagarmyndigheten) and direct police
investigations of serious crimes. For all criminal cases, public
prosecutors decide arrests and charges on behalf of the public and are
the only public officers who can make such decisions. Plaintiffs also
have the option of hiring their own special prosecutor (enskilt
åtal). The exception is cases concerning crimes against the freedom
of the press for which the
Attorney General acts as the prosecuting
attorney. In court, the prosecutor is not necessarily in an
adversarial relationship to the defendant, but is under an obligation
to investigate and present information which may incriminate or
exhonerate the defendant. The prosecutor is not a judicial officer,
nor do they participate in the private deliberations of the court.
Public prosecutors are the only public officers who can decide to
appeal cases to appellate courts (hovrätter). Otherwise, appeals are
initiated by defense counsel, the plaintiff, their representatives,
and other parties to the case (målsäganden). When a case has been
decided by an appellate court, the right to appeal to the Supreme
Court passes from the case's prosecutor to the Director of Public
Socialist law jurisdictions
Main article: Public Procurator
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
Militsiya of the Soviet Union, were not aimed at fulfilling the
same roles as police forces in Democratic countries.
People's Republic of China
Main article: Supreme People's Procuratorate
Public Procurator is a position in the People's Republic of China,
analogous to both detective and public prosecutor. Legally, they are
bound by Public Procurators'
Law of the People's Republic of China.
According to Article 6, the functions and duties of public procurators
are as follows:
Supervise 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 provided by law.
Other functions and duties as provided by law.
Main article: Supreme People's Procuracy of Vietnam
The Supreme People's Procuracy is the highest office of public
procurators in Vietnam.
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In many countries, the prosecutor's administration is directly
subordinate to the executive branch (e.g. the US
Attorney General is a
member of the President's cabinet). In some other countries, such as
Italy or Brazil, the prosecutors are judicial civil servants and so
their hierarchy is installed with the same (or nearly the same)
liberties and independence warranties which the judges traditionally
In other countries, a form of private prosecution is available,
meaning persons or private entities can directly petition the courts
to hold trial against someone they feel is guilty of a crime, should
the prosecutor refuse to indict.
Main article: Private prosecution
In the early history of England, victims of a crime and their family
had the right to hire a private attorney to prosecute criminal charges
against the person alleged to have injured the victim. In the 18th
century, prosecution of almost all criminal offences in England was
private, usually by the victim. In Colonial America, because of
Dutch (and possibly French) practice and the expansion of the office
of attorney general, public officials came to dominate the prosecution
of crimes. However, privately funded prosecutors constituted a
significant element of the state criminal justice system throughout
the nineteenth century. The use of a private prosecutor was
incorporated into the common law of Virginia, but is no longer
permitted there. Private prosecutors were also used in North
Carolina as late as 1975.
Private prosecution has been used in
Nigeria, but the practice is being phased out.
Bruce L. Benson's To Serve and Protect lauds the role of private
prosecutors, often employed by prosecution associations, in serving
the needs of crime victims in England. Radical libertarian theory
holds that public prosecutors should not exist, but that crimes should
instead be treated as civil torts.
Murray Rothbard writes, "In a
libertarian world, there would be no crimes against an ill-defined
'society,' and therefore no such person as a 'district attorney' who
decides on a charge and then presses those charges against an alleged
Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés European
association of judges and public prosecutors.
Director of Public Prosecutions Act 1983 (Cth)
^  Standards on Prosecutorial Investigations
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^ "South Carolina Bench Book for Summary Court Judges - General
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^ Who Polices Prosecutors Who Abuse Their Authority? Usually Nobody.
^ "State v. Gomez, 127 P.3d. 873 (Ariz. 2006)". Retrieved
^ "Berger v.
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^ "Fleeing Korea while under Police/
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in the Eighteenth Century, 2, U. Chi. L. Sch. Roundtable,
^ Robert M. Ireland (Jan 1995). "Privately Funded Prosecution of Crime
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^ Sidman, Andrew (1975–1976), Outmoded Concept of Private
Prosecution, The, 25, Am. U. L. Rev., p. 754
^ Isabella Okagbue (Spring 1990). "Private Prosecution in Nigeria:
Recent Developments and Some Proposals". Journal of African Law.
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^ Rothbard, Murray, "Punishment and Proportionality", The Ethics of
Gad Barzilai The
Attorney General and the State Prosecutor: Is
Institutional Separation Warranted? Jerusalem: The Israel Democracy
Institute, 2010 
MAZZILLI, Hugo Nigro. Regime Juridico do Ministério Público, 5ª
edição, São Paulo: Saraiva, 2001.
Raoul Muhm, Gian Carlo Caselli (Hrsg.), Die Rolle des Staatsanwaltes
Erfahrungen in Europa – Il ruolo del Pubblico Ministero Esperienze
in Europa – Le role du Magistrat du Parquet Expériences en Europe
– The role of the Public
Prosecutor Experiences in Europe,
Vecchiarelli Editore Manziana (Roma) 2005 ISBN 88-8247-156-X
Raoul Muhm, "The role of the Public
Prosecutor in Germany" in The
Irish Jurist, Volume XXXVIII, New Series 2003, The
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Erick Maurel, Paroles de procureur (ed.GALLIMARD 2008 – PARIS),
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