By law, a district attorney must be a licensed lawyer and cannot maintain a private practice while in office. The latter requirement serves to protect the public from the district attorney becoming involved in practices that might be in conflict with one's role as a public official.
Duties performed by the district attorney are as follows:.
- Serves as the prosecutor in trial courts for crimes committed within the district
- Assists a grand jury by giving legal advice, examining witnesses
- Drawing up an indictment when necessary
- Provides witness and victim assistance
- Serves as the chief legal counsel for county government
As the chief prosecutor for the district, the district attorney is required to prosecute in district court the crimes committed within one's district. In Oklahoma, counties within a district court may be different than the counties within a district attorney's district. Thus, a district attorney may have to work with a different set of district judges depending on the county where the crime occurred.
To aid in the massive number of cases reviewed and represented by the office, a district attorney may assign one or more assistant district attorneys and investigators to a county.
Witness & Victim Assistance
Witness and victim assistance is at the discretion of the district attorney and in some cases requires written approval by the district judge. Allowable witness assistance includes witness protection information on procedures for obtaining witness fees, and employer intervention to ensure an employee can appear in court without substantial loss in pay and benefits. Victims can be assisted in obtaining financial aid and social services.
As the chief lawyer for county government, the district attorney acts as the legal advisor to the county officers on matters related to their duties. When any county in the district is involved in a civil litigation, the district attorney serves as its defender or prosecutor. At various times county officials call upon the district attorney to clarify a law or request an official interpretation from the Attorney General.