Public Prosecutor's Office (Brazil)

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Head office of the Attorney General of the Brazilian Republic.
Old building of Public Ministry in Porto Alegre.

The Public Prosecutor's Office (Portuguese: Ministério Público, lit. "Public Ministry") is the Brazilian body of independent public prosecutors at both the federal (Ministério Público da União) and state level. It operates independently from the three branches of government and was referred to by Constitutional scholar Michel Temer as the "Fourth Branch".[1][2]

There are three levels of public prosecutors, according to the jurisdiction of the courts before which they perform their duties. There are the federal prosecutors (procuradores da República) who bring cases before judges in lower courts; the appellate federal prosecutors (procuradores regionais da República); and the superior federal prosecutors (subprocuradores gerais da República). The Prosecutor General heads the federal body and brings cases before the Supreme Federal Court, which handles final judicial reviews and criminal offenses committed by federal legislators, members of the cabinet, and the President of Brazil. At the state level, the body usually has three divisions: substitute state prosecutors (promotores de Justiça substitutos); state prosecutors before the lower courts (promotores de Justiça); and appellate state prosecutors (procuradores de Justiça). There are also military prosecutors whose duties, although related to federal prosecution, have a structure similar to that of state prosecutors.

The main job of prosecutors in Brazil is to uphold justice. As such, it is their duty to bring criminal charges and try criminal cases, but also to request acquittal of charges if during a trial they become convinced of a defendant's innocence. Prosecutors have the last word on whether criminal charges are filed, with the exception of those rare cases in which Brazilian law permits civil prosecution. In those cases, the prosecutor acts as custos legis and ensures that justice is indeed delivered.

Although the law allows prosecutors to conduct criminal investigations, they only do so in major cases, usually where there has been wrongdoing involving the police or public officials. They are also in charge of supervising police work and police investigations. The power prosecutors have to conduct criminal investigations is controversial and, although judges, prosecutors and the general population favor it generally, it is being contested before the Supremo Tribunal Federal. In addition to prosecuting crimes, Brazilian prosecutors are also authorized, among others, 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.

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