What Are the Differences Between a Prosecutor and a Defense Lawyer?

What Are the Differences Between a Prosecutor and a Defense Lawyer?

November 28, 2018

The legal system is a somewhat complex and confusing one, especially for civilians who have never required legal assistance. Therefore, if you do find yourself in need of a lawyer, it’s perfectly normal to have a hard time distinguishing between the key players in court.

Two personnel, in particular, tend to get mixed up quite often: the prosecutor and the defense lawyer. In order to help our clients and the general public better understand the legal system in which they play a part, we figured it was time to clear up the differences between these two important figures.

Major differences

Both prosecutors and defense lawyers are attorneys who work in criminal court. They have many similarities; however, their roles are quite different. Essentially, the prosecutor and defense lawyer are on opposing sides of the courtroom:

  • Types of cases: Defense lawyers can represent clients in both civil and criminal trials, extending their role in the justice system. Prosecutors are only present in criminal court.
  • Who they represent: A prosecutor tries to convict the suspect of their crimes by compiling evidence, building a case and presenting that evidence to a judge or jury. The defense lawyer is hired or appointed by the accused and defends the suspect to try and help them avoid conviction. Defense lawyers will also provide legal counsel outside of court to help the defendant make the best decisions.
  • Who employs them: Prosecutors usually represent the office of the district attorney (an elected official) and are paid through public funds. A defense attorney may work for the public, in which case they will be assigned cases if the defendant can’t pay a private lawyer. Defense lawyers can also operate through their own private practices and are hired by the defendants themselves.

Additionally, prosecutors have the power to offer the accused a plea deal or bargain at the start of a criminal case. The defense attorney can assist the client in navigating these legal waters and identify the best possible outcome for them.


Prosecutors and defense attorneys often undergo the same training and education. Because they are both lawyers, defense attorneys and prosecutors must earn a bachelor’s degree, go through law school and receive bar certification in their state. Both figures are well qualified to serve in court.

Both the prosecutor and the defense lawyer play an important role in the judicial system because it is generally not advisable for defendants and victims to represent themselves in court. It is through their expertise that legal conflicts get resolved.

In need of a defense lawyer?

At Herzner Law, LLC, we understand the roles of both prosecutor and defense lawyer. Our owner, Shane Herzner, is a former prosecutor and understands the ins and outs of criminal court.

Armed with our experience and expertise, Herzner Law, LLC is prepared to represent you for a wide variety of offenses, including OVI, drugs and narcotics, domestic violence, theft and more. Call us today to learn more and schedule an appointment for superior representation and legal counsel.

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