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What is the role of the prosecutor in a Texas criminal case?

On Behalf of | Mar 1, 2022 | Criminal Defense

When a person is arrested on criminal charges in Texas, there will be fear and worry about the future. Depending on the charges, a conviction can result in a litany of consequences. That may include jail time and fines. In addition, a person with a criminal record can face challenges in getting certain jobs, being admitted to schools or entering the military. It can negatively impact just about every aspect of a person’s life. As the case is assessed and a strategy for criminal defense comes into focus, there are certain parts of a case that should be fully understood. One that is frequently understated is the role of the prosecuting attorney.

What the prosecutor does in a criminal case

The prosecutor’s role is to analyze a criminal case, look at its merits and decide whether to pursue the case. If it moves forward, the prosecutor presents the case on behalf of the state. The prosecutor will work with law enforcement in its investigation. If, for example, a person is arrested for driving under the influence, the prosecutor will gauge the justification for the traffic stop, the breathalyzer test, how much alcohol was in the driver’s system and if there are extenuating circumstances.

Cases will be brought before a grand jury which will either vote to indict and proceed or dismiss the charges. If in the view of the prosecutor the evidence is insufficient to secure a conviction or there are issues that might hinder the state’s case, then it is possible that the charges will be dismissed.

Just as a defense attorney will try to create reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt, the prosecutor tries to prove that the defendant is guilty. While people might see courtroom dramas and be under the impression that reality is comparable to what it looks like on television and in films, that is rarely the case. Often, the prosecutor is flexible and will work with a defense attorney in finding a workable solution that might not even involve going to trial. Naturally, this depends on the severity of the charges.

Prosecutors have special responsibilities under state law

Prosecutors are required to function within certain parameters under Texas law. The prosecutor cannot issue threats or pursue a case without probable cause. The prosecutor cannot take part in interrogating a person unless there was an attempt to make sure the accused had been read his or her right to remain silent and the right have legal counsel. Pretrial waivers cannot be sought if the accused does not have representation. All evidence and information regarding the case must be presented to the defense attorney including that which may show the defendant is innocent or reduces the severity of the charges. The prosecutor must also prevent anyone employed by the office from making out of court statements about the case.

Knowing what a prosecutor does can be essential to a criminal defense

Those facing charges might see the prosecutor as an adversary. That is understandable as the prosecutor is trying to secure a conviction. Still, it is wise to realize that a prosecutor has a job to do and is simply trying to reach a satisfactory outcome from their perspective. In general, it is not personal. Even with that, some prosecutors may be overly aggressive or try to maximize the penalties when it is unreasonable to do so. The way the case is being pursued and having guidance in protecting a defendant’s rights are imperative.

Having a grasp of the role of the prosecutor and the district attorney has other benefits as it may open the door toward cooperation and finding solutions to the criminal case with limited penalties. Depending on the tenets of the case, there could be a reduction in charges, some might be dropped or the entire case could be settled with little or no long-term damage to the defendant’s personal and professional reputation. To fight the charges in an evenhanded way and forge viable solutions, it is important to have professional assistance from the outset. Those who are experience in criminal defense, navigating the courtroom, negotiating with prosecutors and crafting an agreeable outcome can be helpful.