The elected prosecutor is the most powerful player in the criminal legal system. In North Carolina, the prosecutor is called a District Attorney or a "DA." One District Attorney is elected in each of North Carolina's 43 Prosecutorial Districts, and most of the time, District Attorneys run unopposed. 

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The power of the District Attorney

The District Attorney decides WHO to prosecute

  • Who to charge with a crime and which charges to dismiss
  • What crime to charge them with
  • Whether to "divert" the case to a program, such as drug treatment or education, so the person can avoid a criminal conviction

The District Attorney decides HOW to prosecute

  • Whether to and at what amount to ask a defendant's bail to be set
  • How long the case will take to resolve - when the case will have hearings and how long it will take to get to trial
  • Which cops are or aren't trusted to testify truthfully
  • Whether to seek the most serious sentences - the death penalty or life without parole
  • When to push for a kid to be prosecuted as an adult (where the law allows that discretion)

The District Attorney DECIDES pleas deals

  • Whether and when to offer a plea deal
  • What the plea should be - charges and punishments

95% of people who are incarcerated took plea deals.

  • The plea deal system allows prosecutors to take advantage of people who are afraid they will get a longer sentence if they go to trial, or who are desperate to get out of jail if they cannot afford to pay bail to be released while they wait for their day in court