District attorneys are responsible for filing criminal charges against suspects within their designated district—typically one or more counties.
Working closely with various law enforcement agencies, a district attorney's office reviews thousands of law enforcement reports annually. This helps them determine whether sufficient evidence exists to file criminal charges against a suspect. These cases are then classified as either felonies or misdemeanors. Prosecutors in the Superior Court will then handle them. The formal beginning of the state's criminal case occurs when the district attorney's (D.A.'s) office files the information or when a grand jury decides to indict a suspect.
To carry out these duties, the D.A.'s office employs various staff, including deputy district attorneys, paralegals, and investigators.
District attorneys in California are elected officials. They serve a four-year term.
The D.A.'s primary objectives are to seek justice in criminal cases and to uphold public safety.
The cornerstone of a district attorney's job is investigating and prosecuting criminal violations of county and state law in court. Many D.A. offices in California have specialized divisions. These divisions include units on domestic violence and units on victim or witness assistance. Advocates provide crisis counseling, community referrals, assistance applying for victim compensation, and other services for those navigating the criminal justice system.
Due to legislative changes, district attorneys no longer oversee child support collection and services. These functions have been transferred to county child support services departments.
However, prosecutors are taking on a new role. Los Angeles County D.A. George Gascón recently announced the formation of the Labor Justice Unit. The specialized team will focus on prosecuting financial crimes like wage theft.
The district attorney's office cannot provide legal information, answer legal questions, make referrals, or offer legal advice.
Contacting the Prosecutor
If you're negotiating a plea bargain or have other valid reasons to contact the D.A.'s office, it's best to do so with the advice and counsel of a criminal lawyer. After all, you don't want to reveal your defense strategy or anything that can be used against you at trial.
Representing yourself, called “self-help," is not recommended, especially when dealing with criminal law or criminal court matters.
If you have an attorney, the district attorney's office is prohibited from communicating with you.
Several cities in California, such as Los Angeles, Burbank, Long Beach, and Pasadena, have city attorneys. In general, city attorneys are appointed by the city council. They advise city officials and the city council on legal issues. They may prosecute violations of the municipal code but not state law.
California has county, state, and federal public defenders. If you're charged with a crime and can't afford an attorney, you can ask for a court-appointed public defender. Generally, you can request a public defender during your arraignment. The arraignment is your first appearance before a judge.
In addition to legal representation, public defenders can help with expungement. Expungement means that certain crimes are cleared from your criminal record. Some California prosecutors no longer make blanket objections to expungement requests, making expunging crimes easier than before.
People are sometimes skeptical of the help that a public defender can provide. But they are criminal defense attorneys. Public defenders are members of the state bar association.
California Attorney General
The California Attorney General (A.G.) is California's highest-ranking prosecutor and law enforcement officer.
While district attorneys file criminal charges within their respective districts, the A.G. represents the state in litigation matters and enforces consumer protection laws, among other duties.
Directory of California District Attorneys
Each county in California is its own judicial district, with a D.A.'s office filing criminal charges against suspects. If you need more information about your local D.A. or need to get in touch with their office for any reason, click on the corresponding link below.
Note: Although we strive to provide the most current contact and website information available for the D.A. offices in this state, this information is subject to change. If you have found contact or website information that is not current, please contact us.
Charged With a Crime in California? Get Legal Help Today
If you've been charged with a crime in the Golden State, be aware that the California district attorney in your district is working hard to get a conviction. That's why you'll want to retain a defense lawyer. Don't leave it up to guesswork; contact an experienced criminal defense attorney near you today.