The county attorney oversees two important areas of legal representation for the county, serving as a criminal prosecutor and a legal representative in civil cases involving the county.
Depending on the size of the county, some counties divide these responsibilities among the elected county attorney and one or more appointed deputy attorneys. Some smaller counties can also rely on prosecution and civil services from an appointed attorney who lives outside the county.
As a public prosecutor, the attorney’s main duties include the prosecution of people who violate county ordinances or state criminal laws within county jurisdictions. However, this doesn’t include city infractions or misdemeanors, as those are handled by city attorneys.
When an individual is accused of breaking a law within the county, it’s the job of the county attorney to put on their criminal prosecutor hat to enforce the law, protect the due process rights of defendants, support the rights of victims and do their best to provide a fair trial. That includes reviewing evidence, interviewing witnesses, meeting with representatives of the accused, and preparing for and conducting a hearing and/or trial.
But county attorneys also provide civil legal representation and advice and defend the legal rights of the county. This can include processing contracts and real estate transactions, offering advice about legal powers and duties, providing representation in issues where the county must defend itself and its officials.
County attorneys also provide other kinds of work, including assisting grand juries in deliberations, assistance in instances where property that has no legal owner, appearances before juvenile courts, and victim advocacy support and coordination.
Attorneys are just one important office at your county. But without their knowledge and specialized training in matters of prosecution and civil law it would be difficult to protect the rights and interests of citizens and their counties.