Role of The District Attorney’s Office in Criminal Cases

Posted by Ronald D. HeddingDec 05, 2022

What role does the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office play in criminal cases? This seems like an obvious question, but if you or a loved one is charged with a criminal case in LA county, the district attorney's office will likely be the agency that prosecutes you. 

They handle all felonies and some misdemeanors in Los Angeles County and have a lot of power. So, whenever I meet with people, I tell them that the district attorney’s office will have an attorney on the other side that will be dealing with their case that I will have to deal with. 

The District Attorney of Los Angeles County is the office that prosecutes felony and misdemeanor crimes in Los Angeles County, California. The current district attorney (DA) is George Gascon. The main office headquarters is located at 211 West Temple Street, Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Role of The District Attorney’s Office in Criminal Cases

I worked for the district attorney's office in East LA in 1992, so I know the office very well.  I also worked for a superior court judge, so I know how the judges interact with the district attorney's office and how they will interact with your case.

Realize, though, the district attorney's office is an essential piece in your case.  People sometimes perceive that judges are the ones that decide what your sentence and your punishment are going to be, and in general, that's true.

But, the reality, especially in LA county, is that it's a negotiation between the defense attorney and the district attorney's office, the deputy district attorney in charge of the case that dictates what you're going to get, and the Judge just pretty much puts their blessing on it. 

There certainly are exceptions to it.  I've had cases where the district attorney's office's was being unreasonable in what they were offering my client to settle the case, and I can go to the judge and say, judge, if my client pleads guilty, what would you give? 

I've done that across LA county and other counties, especially during the pandemic when all of these cases are stacking up.  Sometimes judges have to get involved to move the cases along, especially when the district attorney's office is unreasonable. 

Can You Talk to the DA if Accused of a Crime?

Under our criminal justice system, the District Attorney (DA) is the lawyer that determines whether or not to file charges against someone and prosecutes the criminal case on behalf of the state.

No specific rule prohibits a defendant in a criminal case from speaking directly with the district attorney to negotiate the charges. Still, some ethics rules say prosecutors can't talk now with defendants when represented by a lawyer.

Anyone charged with a crime should not speak with the District Attorney for many reasons, including:

  • You might provide incriminating information;
  • Agree to something you don't completely understand;
  • Plead guilty to a crime that can't be proven in court;

Put simply, if you are accused of a misdemeanor or felony crime, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer to review the case and legal options.

Can You Talk to the District Attorney if Accused of a Crime?

If the DA approaches you, you should let them know you have legal representation and provide them with your lawyer's contact information. However, a prosecutor or DA's office cannot speak with a defendant if they know a defense attorney represents them.

If someone is not represented, a prosecutor can speak to them, but they must advise the defendant that they have the right to remain silent and the right to counsel.

A prosecutor failing to stop talks will violate their constitutional rights and state ethics rules.

Prosecutorial misconduct occurs when a prosecutor in a criminal case behaves illegally or unethically.

The transgression is generally related to obtaining a conviction or a longer sentence for the defendant. If the judge decides that the misconduct prejudiced the defendant, then they could:

  • dismiss the criminal case,
  • admonish the jury to disregard specific comments or evidence,
  • grant a motion for a new trial.

California Penal Code 1181 PC says a judge could declare a mistrial and grant a new trial if a finding of prosecutorial misconduct when prejudiced the outcome of the case and the defense lawyer objected at trial.

One of The Largest Prosecuting Agencies

The district attorney's office in LA county is one of the biggest prosecuting agencies in the world.  They're set up like a corporation.  They've got a hierarchy.  They've got power.  They've got supervisors. 

They've got bosses.  They've got a whole conglomerate of people you've got to deal with if you're going to handle a criminal case in LA county.  That's why it's so important to get somebody like me who's been doing this for 30 years.

Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney

I've got the background with the DA's office and with a super court judge, but I've also got experience defending and fighting cases since the early 1990s.

The DA's office is essential in criminal law and defending yourself, trying to beat the district office if you decide to take the case to trial, or negotiating with them if you decide it's not a good idea to take your case to trial. It would be best if you tried to work out some resolution.

But you certainly want an attorney who has experience with them, knows how to deal with them, and knows how to get a good result.

You've come to the right place.  Pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  We'll talk about your case. 

We'll talk about how the Los Angeles district attorney's office plays into it, and then we'll set up a strategy to get you the best possible result. The Hedding Law Firm provides a free case consultation by phone or fill out the contact form.