- What is a Prosecutor?
- What is a County Prosecutor?
- How do you get to be a County Prosecutor?
- What does a County Prosecutor do?
- What is a prosecution?
- What is a crime?
- Are some crimes more serious than others?
- Are there special courts just for kids?
- Is it OK to download music and other things from the Internet without paying for them?
What is a Prosecutor?
Prosecutors are lawyers who are also law enforcement officers. Most often, they represent the government in criminal court. There are lots of different kinds of prosecutors. Some work for the Federal government and are called U.S. Attorneys, some work for the State and are called Attorneys General, some work for the County and are called County Prosecutors and some work for towns and are called Municipal Prosecutors. Prosecutors in other states sometimes have different names, such as District Attorneys, Commonwealth Attorneys or People's Attorneys, but they all do pretty much the same thing.
What is a County Prosecutor?
In New Jersey, County Prosecutors are the chief law enforcement officers of their County and are responsible for enforcing the criminal laws of New Jersey in their counties. Each county in New Jersey has only one County Prosecutor. The County Prosecutor has Assistant Prosecutors who help him or her enforce the law. In other states they are called Assistant District Attorneys, Assistant People's Attorneys, Assistant Commonwealth Attorneys, etc. The County Prosecutor's staff also includes County Detectives or Investigators (Police Officers), secretaries, paralegals and agents.
How do you get to be a County Prosecutor?
First, you have to be an attorney with at least five years of experience. In New Jersey, it takes four years of college and three years of law school to become an attorney. Also, you have to pass a special test called the "Bar Examination" before you are allowed to practice law. Second, you have to be nominated for the job by the Governor. Once nominated, the nominee is referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee and, if they agree, to the full senate for a vote. If a majority of the Senate approves the nominee, the appointment is successful and the nominee is sworn in as a County Prosecutor.
What does a County Prosecutor do?
As the chief law enforcement officer of the County, the County Prosecutor insures that his or her staff and the local police departments detect, apprehend, arrest, and convict people who break the law. The police and detectives who work for the Prosecutor are the ones who find and arrest people believed to have committed crimes. Assistant Prosecutors are responsible for bringing these people to justice in a court of law.
What is a prosecution?
Once the police arrest and charge someone for committing a crime, the County Prosecutor and Assistant Prosecutors examine the evidence against the person and decide if he or she should be brought to court to be punished. At this stage, the person charged is called the accused. If the Prosecutor and his or her staff decide that there is enough evidence, they bring the matter before a Grand Jury. A Grand Jury is a group of citizens who review the evidence gathered by police and decide if there is enough reason to make the accused go to trial. If the Grand Jury decides that there is not enough evidence the charges are dismissed. If the Grand Jury decides that there is enough evidence, the accused is charged or indicted for the crime and has to appear in court. Once indicted, the person accused is called the defendant. If the defendant admits the crime, he or she pleads guilty to it and is sentenced by a judge. If a defendant doesn't admit to the crime, the defendant can proceed to trial in a court, where another group of citizens, called a petit jury, listens to the evidence and decides if the defendant is guilty or not. If the petit jury decides that the defendant is guilty, the defendant is sentenced by a judge. If the jury decides that the defendant is not guilty, all charges are dismissed. This process is called a prosecution.
What is a crime?
A crime is an act (though it can be a failure to act, too) that society has decided is so wrong or bad that anyone who commits it should be punished as a result. In New Jersey, and most everywhere else, crimes are made into laws called statutes so people will know what is legal and illegal without having to guess. New Jersey's criminal statutes can be found by visiting the homepage of the New Jersey Legislature and clicking on the "Statutes" link on the left.
Are some crimes more serious than others?
Yes. In New Jersey there are four levels of crimes: 1st Degree, 2nd Degree, 3rd Degree and 4th Degree. First degree crimes are the most serious. Anyone convicted of committing a first degree crime can go to jail for 10-20 years, or sometimes longer. Second degree crimes are the next most serious. Anyone convicted of committing a second degree crime can go to jail for 5-10 years. Anyone who commits a third degree crime risks going to jail for 3-5 years. The least serious are 4th degree crimes, which can result in a jail sentence of up to 18 months for people who commit them. There are also lesser criminal wrongs called disorderly persons offenses. They are not as serious as crimes, but still can result in a jail sentence up to a year for anyone who commits them.
Are there special courts just for kids?
Yes. They are called "juvenile courts". In New Jersey, the juvenile court system functions pretty much the same as the adult court system, with two big exceptions: 1) judges decide guilt or innocence in juvenile hearings, not juries and 2) in most cases, the object of the juvenile hearing is to rehabilitate the juvenile offender, not punish him or her.
Is it OK to download music and other things from the Internet without paying for them?
It depends. First, just because you can download things for free on the Internet, doesn't mean that you should. Most things available on the Internet come with a license, or contract, that says exactly what you can and can't do with them. If the license says that the software or music file is free to download and use, you can. For example, there is a lot of software called "freeware" on the Internet that can be downloaded at no cost and sent to others without a problem. However, other things, such as music files of popular recording groups or commercial software, are rarely downloadable for free. Most often, when these types of things are offered free of charge on the Internet it is because someone stole them and/or put them there without permission. If you're not sure if the file that you want to download is legal "freeware" or an illegal "pirated" file, ask your Mom or Dad or another responsible adult for advice.