Your Virginia Legal Team

Karin Riley Porter on The Prosecutor’s Office

Question: What are some important things to know about what happens behind the scenes in the prosecutor’s office?

People should be aware that the protection of the community is the number one goal, and it's not about the defendant specifically.Answer: People should be aware that the protection of the community is the number one goal, and it’s not about the defendant specifically. The prosecutor’s goal is to make sure that that defender is deterred from ever committing that crime again, whether the deterrence is through specific deterrence, meaning putting the person behind bars, or whether it is rehabilitation that might assist the offender in rehabilitating the issue in their life that’s causing them to commit crimes. The prosecutor’s goal is to make sure that the community is protected, and they are not necessarily out to get one particular defendant. They have to make sure that that goal is achieved, and so that is a primary thing that they keep in mind.

From a prosecutor’s perspective, you do hear the same types of stories and excuses over and over again, so from their perspective it is good if a defense attorney can properly advocate and set their client’s case apart from all the other defendants on the docket. That’s very helpful, and prosecutors do recognize defense attorneys who know what they’re doing versus defense attorneys who don’t, or who are not prepared. The reputation of the defense attorney does make a difference when prosecutors handle a case. If they respect the defense attorney’s skill, character, and integrity, that serves the defendant and the client very well.

Question: What is the process of a criminal case like from a prosecutor’s perspective?

Answer: It depends on the case. If it’s a less serious case, you are assigned a case that has already been investigated by the police, and it depends how much. It could be a case where an arrest just happened and there was no further reinvestigation. You get a case file on your desk and you have a police report, and you don’t know much more than that. You can either do your own type of investigation, or you can request more information from the investigator to develop your case. There are some prosecutors who have the time and interest to delve into the case more depending on what it is, and there are those who don’t, so there’s a broad spectrum of talent and experience on that end, too.

The more serious the case, the more the prosecutor is going to be involved in assisting the police, developing the evidence, and making sure there’s a conviction. How much time and effort you put into it depends on what type of case you’re handling.

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