District attorneys (D.A.s) play an important role in Mississippi's criminal justice system. They provide legal representation for the state in criminal cases. They prosecute violations of Mississippi's criminal laws, including misdemeanors and felonies.
D.A.s work closely with law enforcement to prosecute crimes ranging from driving under the influence (DUIs) to domestic violence, drug offenses, assaults, homicides, and white-collar crimes.
When a crime occurs, and an arrest is made, law enforcement refers the case to the district attorney's office. The D.A. then reviews the evidence to decide whether to pursue charges.
If the D.A. determines there is enough evidence to justify criminal charges, they have two options:
- Call a grand jury and present the case details and evidence to the jury. The grand jury then votes on whether to issue an indictment. The indictment allows the D.A. to proceed with formal charges.
- Directly file a criminal complaint and charges based on the D.A.'s assessment without a grand jury indictment.
Once charges are filed through either process, the defendant is arraigned in court and enters a plea. If they plead not guilty, a trial date is set. If the defendant pleads guilty, the case settles.
If formal charges are made, most defendants hire a criminal defense attorney to provide them with legal assistance.
The D.A. also manages a team of assistant district attorneys.
Understanding the role of the D.A. and whether to contact the prosecutor can help you prepare your defense.
Contacting the District Attorney
Many cases are resolved through plea bargaining between the criminal defense lawyer and the D.A.'s office. Depending on your situation and the nature of your criminal charge, you may be inclined to contact the district attorney without legal representation.
Generally, you'll want your criminal defense attorney to handle negotiations with the prosecutor. An experienced criminal defense lawyer understands the criminal justice process. They also probably know the prosecutors and how best to work with them.
Remember, the D.A.'s job is to convict. As a result, you must be careful not to tip your hand or give the prosecution any additional leverage.
If you're accused of a crime and need an attorney but can't afford legal representation because of a low income, you can ask for a public defender or an assigned counsel.
Defendants have a constitutional right to legal counsel. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) that states must provide free lawyers for indigent defendants in criminal cases.
Mississippi state law requires that “any person . . . arrested and charged with a felony, a misdemeanor or an act of delinquency" must be allowed to sign an affidavit of indigency and be appointed a public defender.
Public defenders represent in state court people accused of crimes ranging from telephone harassment to capital murder. In the state of Mississippi, the local courts assign public defenders.
If you're accused of a federal crime and can't afford an attorney, you can ask for a federal public defender.
If you need legal aid for a civil matter and can't afford an attorney, several organizations can help. Generally, to qualify for legal assistance, your income must meet the standards set by the federal poverty guidelines.
North Mississippi Rural Legal Services (NMRLS) provides free civil legal assistance on a wide range of issues to people with low income and seniors in North Mississippi. NMRLS helps with legal matters such as:
- Domestic violence
- Child support and child custody
- Housing, including foreclosures and landlord/tenant issues
- Elder care, including Medicare
The Mississippi Center for Legal Services provides free legal representation for eligible persons in central and south Mississippi. They provide legal aid for people who need help with many types of legal matters, including:
- Elder law
- Social Security disability
The Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project also provides free legal assistance to Mississippi residents of limited means. They help people represent themselves in court. They provide legal advice and draft pleadings. They also provide referrals to other programs. But the lawyers don't make court appearances on behalf of the people they help.
Mississippi Attorney General
The Mississippi Attorney General, an elected position, represents the state in litigation. The Attorney General also enforces laws meant to protect consumers and others in the state.
Directory of Mississippi District Attorneys
Mississippi has 22 judicial districts, with an elected D.A. serving each district. Some districts consist of a single county, while others comprise multiple counties. Below are links to Mississippi district attorneys, organized by district and county.
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.
Talk to a Lawyer Before Contacting the Mississippi District Attorney
Criminal charges are serious. A guilty verdict can result in steep fines, loss of professional licensure, and even time in prison. Before making any decisions about how to proceed, it's in your best interests to contact a local law office. An experienced Mississippi criminal defense attorney will be able to provide legal help, explaining the law and how to protect your rights.