Roles in the Criminal Justice System

Role of Law Enforcement: To be an impartial investigator and protector of public safety. Police officers or sheriff's deputies are typically first to respond to a crime scene and first to have contact with victims and witnesses.

Role of Prosecutor: To assess investigative reports for charging decisions; work with Victim/Witness Services to make sure victims' rights are protected and to prepare witnesses for trial; and represent the state at all criminal court proceedings.

Role of Defense Attorney: To represent the defendant in all criminal court proceedings. It is their job to insure all rights afforded to the accused are upheld throughout the criminal justice process. If a defendant is unable to pay for an attorney, a court-appointed public defender will be appointed.

Role of Judge: To ensure the laws of his/her jurisdiction are followed and that procedures and parties follow the law. Judges confirm probable cause for charged offenders, rule on appropriate bail and/or conditions of release, set dates for court hearings, oversee all court proceedings, and impose sentences in accordance with plea agreements, recommendations of the Corrections Department, and within the Minnesota sentencing guidelines.

Role of Probation Officer: To assume an active role following a plea or finding of the defendant’s guilt. Their duties include conducting a pre-sentence investigation (PSI) which documents the offender’s criminal and personal history to assist the judge in determining an appropriate sentence in accordance with any plea agreement.