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What Is the Difference Between a Prosecutor and a Defense Attorney?


The key difference between a prosecutor and a defense attorney is that they play opposite roles at trial. The prosecutor’s main job is to prosecute the crime that the accused is being charged with. The prosecutor does this by gathering evidence, tracking down witnesses, and proving to the court that the accused is guilty of a crime. A criminal defense lawyer, however, does the exact opposite. They will gather evidence and witnesses with the intent to defend the accused and prove their client did not commit the crime.

Do Defense Attorneys and Prosecutors Have Different Education Levels?

Prosecutors and defense lawyers both pursue the exact same education and training to become attorneys. Every attorney must complete a four-year undergraduate program and three years in law school. Finally, every lawyer must pass the bar exam in order to be admitted to the bar. Whether they’re a defense or prosecution attorney, all attorneys have to complete at least seven years of upper education before applying for a license to practice law.

Can Attorneys Practice both Defense and Prosecution?

It’s very uncommon for attorneys to practice both defense and prosecution. The majority of lawyers specialize in prosecuting criminal cases or in criminal defense, rarely both. That said, when attorneys do have experience on both sides, it can be a major benefit. When a lawyer is well versed in both prosecution and criminal defense, they can understand both sides of the justice system. Former prosecutors now working as defense lawyers have all the skills needed to build your best possible defense because they know exactly what the prosecutor in your case is likely to do.

If I’m Facing Charges Do I Hire a Prosecutor?

If you are currently facing criminal charges, you actually need to hire a criminal defense lawyer, not a prosecutor. When you are accused in a case of a criminal charge, it’s pivotal that you hire a criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights. If you cannot afford an attorney, you will be provided a public defender, which is not in your best interest, as these attorneys are often overworked and cannot give your case the personal attention it needs. A criminal defense attorney that you hire will give your case all of the careful attention to detail that can make the difference between conviction and acquittal (being found not guilty). Criminal cases have to be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and a skilled criminal defense attorney knows how to use this very high standard to your advantage. Our criminal defense attorneys know how to show the jury the facts that either prove your innocence or provide that “shadow of a doubt” that can make a conviction less likely.

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