District of Columbia District Attorneys

Most states organize courts into judicial districts, each covering one or more counties. A District Attorney (D.A.) heads each district. The D.A.'s office prosecutes state criminal offenses within its judicial district. Sometimes, the D.A. refers serious felony cases to a grand jury to secure an indictment for criminal charges.


Due to its small geographical size and unique administrative structure of not being a state but having its own laws, Washington, D.C. doesn't have D.A.s. Instead, the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia is in charge of prosecuting criminal cases within its jurisdiction.

The U.S. Attorney's Office (USAO) handles both federal and local crimes, prosecuting them in a manner similar to states.

The article below provides legal information about the unique structure of the District's U.S. Attorney's Office and other legal services in Washington, D.C.

What the U.S. Attorney's Office for D.C. Does

Aside from enforcing federal laws in the nation's capital, the U.S. Attorney's Office (USAO) for the District of Columbia prosecutes local felonies and some misdemeanors similar in scope and procedure to most states' District Attorneys.

The District of Columbia USAO is the largest in the nation. On the federal side, the office investigates and prosecutes federal crimes such as:

  • Child pornography
  • Gang activity
  • Terrorism
  • White-collar crimes (e.g., financial fraud)

Local criminal matters involving violations of D.C. criminal statutes are handled in the Superior Court Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office. The office has five divisions:

Contacting the USAO for the District of Columbia

There may be instances where contacting the prosecutor is a good idea, such as when you're negotiating a plea bargain. However, always do so with the counsel of your attorney. In many cases, they'll communicate on your behalf. Besides, you don't want to reveal your defense strategy to the prosecution or have anything said used against you at trial.

There are seven police districts and seven regional Community Prosecution offices throughout the District of Columbia. You can view the map to determine which local office to contact.

Court Advocacy in the District of Columbia

The trial court for the District of Columbia is formally called the D.C. Superior Court. If you lose your case, all hope is not lost. You can appeal the trial court's decision to the D.C. Court of Appeals (DCCA). The organization of the D.C. Superior Court includes the following areas:

  • Civil Division: Includes the Landlord and Tenant and Small Claims Divisions
  • Criminal Division: Including the Drug Court and the Mental Health Diversion Court
  • Family Court: Includes child protection, juvenile delinquency, and family law matters (adoption, guardianship, custody, divorce, etc.)
  • Probate Division: Includes processing trusts, wills, adult guardianship, small and large estates, and incapacitated adults
  • Tax Division: Includes reviewing petitions for review, tax mediation, and filing opinions

The Role of the D.C. Attorney General

The District of Columbia also has an attorney general (A.G.), but unlike state A.G.s, this office doesn't prosecute crimes. Instead, the A.G.'s office enforces laws within the District, provides legal advice and counsel for D.C. government agencies, and files lawsuits for D.C. residents, such as consumer protection laws.

Legal Aid Resources

You can receive legal assistance if you're facing criminal or civil charges in the District of Columbia. Several organizations offer free to low-cost options, including:

  • The District of Columbia Bar, which includes the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, helps individuals and small businesses
  • Law School Legal Services, which includes certified law student attorneys who operate under faculty supervision from area law schools
  • Legal Aid DC provides legal representation in housing, public benefits, family and immigration law services

There are nonprofit organizations and community initiatives covering several practice areas available as additional resources.

Get Legal Help With a District of Columbia Criminal Defense Attorney

The criminal justice system is intricate and overwhelming at times. You'll want to ensure you understand the charges against you and your rights as a defendant. The U.S. Attorney's Office will do everything in its power to secure a conviction, so you'll want experienced legal counsel in your corner. Get started today by contacting a skilled Washington, D.C., criminal defense lawyer.

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