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A District Attorney is an attorney who prosecutes criminal cases for the government at the federal, state, county, or local level. The District Attorney is part of the Department of Justice and typically heads a prosecutor's office staffed with multiple attorneys who act on behalf of the District Attorney. District Attorneys take a lead role in multiple phases of a criminal case and exercise a great deal of discretion in how a case is handled. District Attorneys may delegate certain cases, or aspects of cases, to other attorneys in their office.
The District Attorney decides whether or not to prosecute an offender. The evidence provided by a law enforcement agency may or may not be sufficient to move a case forward, and the District Attorney must evaluate the strength and admissibility of the available evidence before prosecuting the offender.
In almost all states, a Grand Jury is convened for felony cases before formal criminal charges are issued. The District Attorney is responsible for presenting evidence to the Grand Jury, which then decides whether or not there is probable cause for criminal charges. The District Attorney also determines whether to offer or accept a plea bargain.
For cases that go to trial, the District Attorney, along with the defense attorney, will select a jury. After jury selection, the District Attorney makes opening statements, presents the government's case for conviction, and makes objections to the defense attorney's case. If the jury convicts the individual accused of breaking the law, the District Attorney makes recommendations for sentencing. If the jury finds the defendant not guilty, the District Attorney determines whether or not to appeal the case to a higher-level court.
Depending on the jurisdiction, the District Attorney may be elected or appointed. The President appoints U.S. District Attorneys, which are usually referred to as U.S. Attorneys. The District Attorney for a state is most often referred to as the State's Attorney. Most State's Attorneys are elected, while the governor appoints the State's Attorney in a handful of states. Some counties and cities have District Attorneys, who are either elected or appointed by the chief executive.