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Differences Between A Prosecutor & A Defence Lawyer
Posted on June 10, 2021
When you're facing criminal charges, understanding the role of everyone in the court and how they will affect your case is important. If you're not familiar with the criminal justice system, it can be extremely overwhelming to try and understand the roles of everyone present during your trial. You'll mainly be wondering what the difference is between a Crown prosecutor and a defence lawyer. Which one do you need to hire for your case? How are their jobs different, and is there a difference in their education or legal expertise?
What's The Difference Between A Prosecutor & Defence Lawyer?
The main difference between a prosecution lawyer and a defence lawyer is that they are oppositional in a trial. The prosecutor is responsible for prosecuting the crime that the accused is being tried for. They do this by gathering evidence, witness testimonies, and more to prove to the judge, and jury if present, that the accused is guilty of the crime. A criminal defence lawyer does the opposite. A criminal defence lawyer will gather evidence to defend the accused and prove to the court that they did not commit the crime or find ways to lessen the punishment.
A Crown prosecutor is a public officer employed by the government to prosecute criminal cases. In some cases, you can opt to hire a private prosecutor which is a lawyer that you can retain to prosecute your case. This typically happens after you have complained to a law enforcement agency, but they refuse to lay a criminal charge. If that happens, then you should retain a criminal defence lawyer to lay a private prosecution because they are best skilled in this type of application. Once this application is made before a judge, the judge will decide whether to order the prosecution to continue. If the judge orders process (as it is called) then the crown prosecutor is required to continue in the prosecution.
Typically individuals prefer to retain a criminal lawyer for their defence rather than a public defence lawyer.
Do Crown Prosecutors Represent Individuals?
The role of Crown prosecutors in our justice system isn't to defend or represent individuals. Their role also isn't to secure a conviction. Crown prosecutors represent the interest of the community, both provincially and federally. They operate in a quasi-judicial role where they evaluate if a case has enough evidence and whether the case is in the public interest. If the case fulfills both of these requirements, the Crown prosecutor can decide to go ahead and prosecute the charges laid by the police.
In this way, the Crown prosecutors do not work for the police, victims, or the accused. They operate solely to make sure the community's public interest is protected when they decide to prosecute cases. A Crown prosecutor may meet with the victim of the crime to gather evidence and may even use them as a witness, but they are not there to ensure a conviction or consider what the victim wants during the trial.
Do Prosecutors & Defence Lawyers Have Different Education Requirements?
Both prosecutors and defence lawyers pursue the same education to become lawyers. They must complete a four-year undergraduate program and then three years of law school. Lastly, they must pass the bar examination to be admitted to the bar. Regardless of whether they're a prosecution or defence lawyer, all lawyers have to complete a minimum of seven years of education before being licensed to practice law.
Can A Lawyer Practice Both As A Prosecutor & Defence?
Typically, this is an uncommon practice. Most lawyers specialize in the prosecution of criminal cases or criminal defence. Most law firms also only specialize in either private prosecution or criminal defence. However, it is not uncommon to see lawyers that have previously practiced both as a prosecutor and a criminal defence lawyer like Ross Lutz's Jillian Williamson. When a lawyer is well-practiced and has experience with both prosecution and criminal defence, they can understand both sides of the justice system and find better avenues to advance your legal interest. Former prosecutors now acting as defence lawyers have surgeon like skills to build your best defence because they can anticipate so quickly and cleverly what the prosecutor in your case is likely to do.
If I'm Facing Charges, Do I Hire A Prosecutor?
No, if you are currently facing criminal charges, you need to retain a criminal defence lawyer. As mentioned above, prosecutors defend the community or the victim in the case of private prosecutors. When you are the accused in the case of a criminal charge, you need to hire a criminal defence lawyer to protect your rights. If you cannot afford to retain a lawyer, you will be provided one.
If you are currently facing criminal charges, it is essential to speak to a criminal lawyer immediately. Don't wait to protect your freedom. Contact our team at Ross Lutz Barristers today to see how we can help defend your rights.