The Difference Between The District Attorney’s Office And The City Attorney’s Office In Criminal Cases
A lot of people get confused when it comes to defining and figuring out the difference between a City Attorney and a District Attorney. The District Attorney is the head prosecuting officer that handles the filing of most felony cases in Los Angeles County. They have they’re Deputy District Attorneys who are the lower-level district attorneys who serve under them. The City Attorney of Los Angeles County is somebody who is elected and they usually deal with misdemeanor cases and city-related matters, like ordinance violations and lesser criminal cases like DUI’s.
The difference is, in my opinion, in the different type of cases that they prosecute. So, as far as the District Attorney’s go, most of the court in Los Angeles County staff the District Attorney’s office and there are about twenty-five different courts now. There’s one main District Attorney’s office which is in downtown Los Angeles actually in the criminal court building at 210 West Temple. The City Attorney’s office has their own offices as well. They’re in most of the courthouses. There are a few examples of courthouses where there’s only District Attorneys and they prosecute both felonies and misdemeanors. But in most of the courthouses, there’s both City Attorneys and District Attorneys, and again, the District Attorneys are usually prosecuting the felonies – the more serious cases, and the City Attorneys are usually prosecuting the misdemeanors – or the more community-based offenses.
So, there’s a head City Attorney. There’s a head District Attorney. There’s Deputy City Attorneys. There’s Deputy District Attorneys. I’ve been practicing now for twenty-five years, so it’s kind of important to know the difference – to know which of the two entities prosecutes which cases. Sometimes they have to work together. Sometimes the City Attorneys and District Attorneys have to deal with a case where both a felony and a misdemeanor are filed. Sometimes somebody will be on misdemeanor probation and commit a felony, and then the City Attorney comes in and give their position on how they’re going to deal with their probation violation, for example, so it has to be coordinated between the defense attorney and also the District Attorney. So, a lot of times the City Attorney and District Attorney will work side-by-side on certain cases in certain situations.
They are certainly in the same courthouse all the time and they are seeing each other, and as a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles County, you have to know how each of the branches – the City Attorney and the District Attorney in Los Angeles – how they handle cases, how they work together. For example, someone could be arrested for a crime and be booked for a felony and the crime could be a wobbler – meaning it could be filed as a misdemeanor or felony, so the District Attorney’s office could reject the case, decide not to file it, but then send it to the City Attorney and say, this is a case you should file. We’re not going to mess with it. We don’t think it rises to the felony level, but we do think it’s a misdemeanor, and then the City Attorney can deal with it. They could either file a criminal case and send it into the courtrooms that handle the misdemeanor cases in the particular jurisdiction or courthouse, or they could do a City Attorney hearing, where they have a hearing to determine whether or not they’re even going to file the case in the first place.
So, there are all sorts of different intricacies as it relates to the relationship between the City Attorney and the District Attorney’s office – how they file crimes, how they deal with defense attorneys. There’s a whole hierarchy in each of the offices. The City Attorney has the main person. They have an assistant. They have a bunch of Deputies. They have supervising City Attorneys in each of the branches of the courthouses.
The District Attorney is like a business. They have a head District Attorney and they have multiple Assistant heads. They’ve got office heads. The Deputy District Attorney. There are over a thousand Deputy District Attorneys in Los Angeles, which I think is one of the biggest District Attorney’s office in the world.
So, if you have an issue and it centers around the City Attorney or the District Attorney, come to somebody like me who has been doing it a long time – deals with both the City Attorney and the District Attorney – negotiates with them, tries cases against them, and then you’ll really be able to get a feel for your issue – what can be done to help you and what makes sense under the facts and circumstances of your criminal case.
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