The term “prosecution” may be used to mean two different things in the context of criminal law. In this article, we provide both definitions of the term “prosecution,” as well as offer information about how prosecution is commenced and what the duties of the prosecution are.
In criminal law, the term “prosecution” is used to refer to two different things.
The first definition of prosecution is the action of commencing a criminal charge, i.e. to prosecute somebody. Prosecution for an offense is commenced when any of the following occur:
Second, the term prosecution is also used to refer to the prosecutor, or the agent in charge of initiating a prosecution. This is usually referred to as a district attorney. As such, the term “prosecution” can be used to refer to the government during a criminal trial. For example, the prosecutor may make a statement such as, “the prosecution rests” or “the prosecution will present five witnesses.”
The primary duty of the prosecution is to seek justice within the bounds of the law, not to merely convict. They must serve the public interest, aiming to increase public safety by both pursuing appropriate criminal charges and not pursuing inappropriate criminal charges. They must protect the innocent and convict the guilty, consider the interests of victims and witnesses, and respect the constitutional and legal rights of all persons, including both suspects and defendants.
The prosecution also has other duties such as: