Prosecutable offenses can range from minor speeding or other traffic violations to serious and violent crimes such as murders. As participants in law enforcement, prosecutors endeavor to hold the offenders accountable. Our prosecutor job description presented below explains the duties, skills, education, and experience needed to accomplish these goals.
Job Overview: What Does a Prosecutor Professional Do?
As its name suggests, the prosecutor job description is founded upon prosecuting accused criminals and seeking their conviction and punishment. Their functions expand beyond trying defendants and arguing before judges and juries. Through analysis, preparation and proper exercise of discretion and authority, prosecutors must determine whether and how to prosecute a defendant.
Prosecutor Job Duties
- Present witnesses, objects, photographs and other evidence of crimes by accused persons in court;
- Interview investigators, victims and other witnesses to criminal activity;
- Determine what charges to bring against an alleged criminal and what punishments to seek;
- Obtain indictments of accused criminals or formal charges from grand juries;
- Prepare indictment forms, motions, proposed jury instructions, notices and other court documents;
- Make, receive and evaluate plea offers;
- Assist or oversee detectives, investigators, and other law enforcement in gathering evidence;
- Produce documents and other information to defendants or their lawyers upon request and as required by law;
- Explain process and reason for certain decisions to victims or their family members.
Prosecutor Job Essential Skills
Analytical Skills. Prosecutors need skills in interpreting statutes and rules, applying criminal law to facts and determining the significance of testimony or other items of evidence. The analysis also consists of assessing the credibility of witnesses based on factors such as bias or inconsistency in statements.
Ethical Skills. The prosecutor job description includes the ability to fairly and impartially decide whether and how to prosecute accused persons. Prosecutors must avoid ethical lapses such as withholding evidence that may negate guilt, relying on false evidence and mistreating the law or facts. Ethical behavior means sometimes taking actions that prevent an unjust conviction.
Organizational Skills. Prosecutors handle and must prepare multiple cases for trial or plea. Managing the caseload requires prosecutors to mark deadlines for subpoenas and other court submissions, maintain contact information for witnesses, and track court dates. The ability to organize also promotes planning of trials by deciding the order of presenting witnesses and evidence.
Persuasive Skills. To convince juries to render guilty verdicts, prosecutors need to speak and write clearly and connect with juries. Persuasion also involves having a command of the important evidence, facts and law; and avoiding inconsistencies and illogical arguments.
Becoming a Prosecutor Professional
Those pursuing a career as a prosecutor embark on seven years of combined undergraduate and law school education. During that time, budding prosecutors grasp the essential base of knowledge and skills needed by prosecutors. Prior work in law enforcement or the criminal justice system affords valuable background and familiarity with criminal law and procedures. Prosecutors generally progress from handling minor offenses to major crimes with experience and performance.
Qualifications and Training
Prior to law school, aspiring prosecutors typically take undergraduate courses in criminal justice and political science. Psychology courses help aspiring prosecutors understand mental conditions that may arise in competency hearings and insanity pleas. Majors for prosecutors usually include criminal justice and political science.
As with all future lawyers, those seeking careers as prosecutors must complete law school. Most programs last three years, with a criminal law class in the first year. Trial and evidence courses are necessary pieces of a future prosecutor’s law school curriculum. During law school or in the summers, prospective prosecutors may intern with prosecutor’s offices or lawyers who practice criminal law. Those who eventually work as federal prosecutors may take courses on federal courts.
Many law schools offer clinic programs for students to gain practical experience under the supervision of a licensed lawyer or law professor. After graduation, prosecutors must pass the bar exam in their respective states and be admitted to practice law. Federal prosecutors must obtain separate admission to practice before federal courts.
Newly graduated and licensed attorneys can land entry-level or junior positions in prosecutors’ offices. In these roles, prosecutors handle traffic matters such as speeding, registration violations, and reckless driving. Handling misdemeanors such as petty larcenies, simple assaults, minor drug possession offenses and communicating threats form part of the prosecutor job description for junior staffers.
For more experienced prosecutors, caseloads include felonies such as major drug crimes, kidnapping, and robberies. The most seasoned prosecutors or the elected district or state’s attorney may handle death penalty cases. In U.S. Attorneys Offices, candidates for prosecutor positions generally need five to seven years of experience.
Prosecutors may come from the ranks of those with prior experience as police officers, detectives, investigators and other law enforcement or criminal justice professionals.
Most prosecutors keep full-time hours. Due to court schedules, prosecutors normally work Monday through Friday. Trials involving complex issues, serious crimes, numerous witnesses or a combination thereof may run into evenings or weekends and last several days or weeks. With cases that grab significant media or other public attention may come at least several days spent on jury selection.
Outside of court, the prosecutor job description means spending office hours preparing subpoenas and other documents, interviewing police and witnesses, reviewing evidence and negotiating possible plea deals with defense lawyers. In some cases, prosecutors may have to interview witnesses on evenings or weekends to accommodate their schedules and may travel to crime scenes or meet with witnesses who are homebound or in the hospital.
Job Outlook & Advancement Opportunities
The prevalence of criminal activity should sustain the need for prosecutors at both the federal and state levels. As prosecutors are government employees, budget resources and priorities may stunt somewhat the availability and growth in the number of positions. Therefore, there will be an 8% percent growth in the number of jobs from 2016 to 2026, that is just as fast as the average for all other occupations.
Job prospects may increase in jurisdictions with higher population levels. Urban areas typically have more incidents of crimes or traffic offenses. These places also have more courts and court sessions than rural areas. The hourly rate for a prosecutor in the US stands at $30.70, while the median salary can reach $67,277 per year at an intermediate experience level.
With accumulated experience and results, including convictions, come responsibility for more serious prosecutions. Such leads to more senior roles and higher pay. District attorneys or states’ attorneys are generally elected and serve defined terms. Those officials hire their assistant attorneys and assign duties.
Finally, the prosecutor job description entails a rigorous legal education and developing experience in conducting trials, procuring guilty pleas and other prosecutorial activities. The role requires the fair and ethical exercise of powers to prosecute and seek punishments for offenders. Planning, organization and analysis constitute necessary skills for prosecutors. Chances of employment should prove solid with continued crime, especially in more populated jurisdictions.