State's attorney

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For the 1932 film, see State's Attorney (film).

A state's attorney or state attorney is a lawyer representing the interests of the state in a legal proceeding, typically as a prosecutor. It is an official title in the United States, sometimes appointed but most commonly an elected official serving as the chief law enforcement officer of his or her county, circuit, or district. The offices of district attorney, commonwealth's attorney, county attorney, county prosecutor, or prosecuting attorney are more frequently the case in the United States although South Carolina uses solicitor. Other countries also use or used the term state attorney, like the Boer republics of the Orange Free State (1854–1902) and the South African Republic (1852–1902) in South Africa. In these cases the position corresponded to that of the attorney general in the British judicial system. It is used within the Attorney-General's Department of Sri Lanka.

Duties of state's attorney[edit]

The principal duties of the state's attorney are usually mandated by law and include representing the State in all criminal trials for crimes which occurred in the state's attorney's geographical jurisdiction. The geographical jurisdiction of a state's attorney may be delineated by the boundaries of a county, judicial circuit, or judicial district.

Their duties generally include charging crimes through informations and/or grand jury indictments. After levying criminal charges, the state's attorney will then prosecute those charged with a crime. This includes conducting discovery, plea bargaining, and trial.

In some jurisdictions, the state's attorney may act as chief counsel for city police, county police, state police and all state law enforcement agencies within the state's attorney's jurisdiction.

Assistant or deputy state's attorneys[edit]

Assistant or deputy state's attorney is the title applied to all attorneys working in a state's attorney's office, with the exception of the state's attorney. An assistant state's attorney (ASA) is hired or appointed to the position by the elected state's attorney and derives the power to act on behalf of the state in criminal prosecutions through the state's attorney. The duties of an ASA include those of the state's attorney—representing the state (prosecution) in criminal proceedings. The caseload of an ASA is generally regarded as being high in volume, with an ASA having anywhere from a few dozen to several hundred active cases at any given time.

Generally, the salary of an ASA will be much lower than the elected state's attorney. The non-monetary benefits of the job induce many to work as an ASA; these include the opportunity to amass trial experience, perform a public service, and network professionally.

Upon leaving employment as an ASA, persons seek employment as a judge, in private law firms, or as U.S. Attorneys.

Departments[edit]

The state's attorney usually divides their services into several departments that handle different areas of criminal law. Each department is staffed by several duly appointed and sworn ASAs. The departments of a large state's attorney's Office may include but are not limited to: felony, misdemeanor, domestic violence, traffic, juvenile, charging (or case filing), drug prosecution, forfeitures, civil affairs such as eminent domain, child advocacy, child support, victim assistance, appeals, career criminal prosecution, homicide, investigations, organized crime/gang, and administration.

Appeals[edit]

Depending on state law, appeals are moved to appellate courts (also called appeals courts, courts of appeals, superior courts, or supreme courts in some states). During the appeals process State's Attorneys, in many cases, hands all relative prosecutorial materials to a State Appellate Prosecutor who in turn will represent the state in appellate courts with the advice and consent of the State's Attorney. The State's Attorney in small counties is responsible for grand jury indictments, motions, proceedings, and trying cases by jury or bench until verdict. In larger counties, the State's Attorney acts as an administrator and delegates most of the trial work to Assistant State's Attorney or Assistant District Attorneys.

States that have state's attorneys or state attorneys[edit]

See also[edit]