The job of a lawyer has been glamorized by movies and TV shows. You might have been interested in the justice system, especially the job of attorneys. Lawyers are often portrayed in characters that are smart, good in public speaking or debate, and many more. The truth is that being a lawyer is a complicated job. A criminal law case has two sides which are the prosecution and the defense. The prosecutor and the defense attorney go against each other from opposing sides in court. If you are either a client, a defendant, or a prospective law student, you must fully understand the difference between the two.
A Hypothetical Case
In this hypothetical case, we build a scenario to set up how the prosecution and the defense will set up their cases. In this scenario, your cousin never had any run-ins with the law. Unfortunately, his car suddenly broke down in one day. Certain situations and circumstances occurred, which led to his arrest for the suspicion of stealing someone’s car. This situation will be our build-up to the legal processes that will occur on each side.
After the arrest of your cousin, the evidence and the case will go to the district attorney’s office. A prosecutor will be assigned. The prosecutor will check the case and decide the charges that will be filed. The prosecutor, along with the district attorney who oversees the legal professionals in the office is working for the government to protect the public.
The misconception about prosecutors is that they represent or work for the victims of a crime. Prosecutors take into consideration the victim’s case but the main goal is to serve justice. A prosecutor must consider proving their case to successfully prosecute the defendant.
The United States’ justice system ensures that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. It is the prosecutor’s job to prove the guilt of the defendant. It is not the defendant’s job to prove innocence as the burden of proof relies on the prosecutor. The prosecution side must provide sufficient evidence that will ensure the verdict “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” that is used by the courts.
The prosecutor cannot simply prove that the defendant is quite guilty. He or she must prove that every nook and cranny of the charges filed are true with the only possible conclusion leading to the fact that the defendant did the crime. Going back to your cousin’s criminal charge, the prosecutor must prove that he is guilty. The prosecution must prove that your cousin did not own the vehicle yet took or drove it without the owner’s consent, permanently depriving the vehicle’s owner of his property.
If the charge is grand theft auto, the prosecutor must prove all facets in the case. Even if the prosecutor will be able to prove that your cousin took the car that is not his and drove it without the owner’s permission, but failed the fourth point about permanently depriving the owner of his property, then the charges will be dropped. Instead of grand theft auto, the charges will be dropped and possibly turn into a misdemeanor charge.
Defense lawyers can be private-sector lawyers or work for the government. An example of a private defense law firm is Benari Law Group. If your cousin could not afford a private lawyer, the court can assign a public defender to him.
In this case, the defense team will file a “motion for discovery”, referring to the act of making the prosecution turn over their evidence that will be used for your cousin’s case. The files may include a list of witnesses, police reports, and other documents. The defense attorney will study the case and look for witnesses that can testify on the defendant’s behalf.
The defense team will construct the mitigation. If the prosecution’s evidence against your cousin is convincing, the defense lawyer can suggest that the crime was due to duress, entrapment, self-defense, or any factor that may excuse the deed. The defense may negotiate a plea deal, which will let your cousin plead guilty. In return, he will be given a more lenient punishment compared to pleading “not guilty” during the trial. Plea deals are a way to avoid any felony conviction.
However, if your cousin wants to prove his innocence, the charges will go to court. The defense attorney will need to establish reasonable doubt in the trial. Since the defense team does not need to prove the innocence of their client, the defense lawyer will have to come up with good reasoning showing the prosecution’s argument as flawed. In the end, it is the judge and the jury who will decide the defendant’s fate.
In conclusion, the prosecutor must prove the guilt beyond “reasonable doubt” that your cousin is guilty of grand theft auto while the defense lawyer must argue that there is “reasonable doubt” in the criminal charge. Both sides are equally important to the justice system as they represent the voice of all sides.