What is the Difference Between a Prosecutor vs Lawyer?

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What is the Difference Between a Prosecutor vs Lawyer?

After a person is charged with a crime in Regina, a judge or a jury must decide whether there is enough evidence to convict that person. Prosecutors submit arguments and evidence to prove the accused’s conviction. Defence lawyers submit arguments and evidence to support the accused’s innocence.

There is a unique reason behind our liking crime thrillers. The podcasts, documentaries, movies, and TV shows always catch our interest with twisted stories and courtroom dramas. We love a good debate and a verbal fight between the prosecutor vs lawyer.

By now, you must have already realized that the two sides we see in a courtroom legal matter differ. On the one hand, we have the defence lawyer; on the other, there are the prosecutors. Whatever heated debate we see in court is a prosecutor vs. defence lawyer war.

So, what exactly are the definitive differences between them? And what sets them apart from each other?

Difference Between Prosecutor and Lawyer

A defence lawyer and a prosecutor are lawyers who have passed the bar exam. However, many differences set them apart from each other. Before diving into the defence lawyer vs. prosecutor match, we need to understand the definitions properly.

Definition of Defence Lawyer

The definition is almost precisely what the word sounds like. A lawyer who represents the alleged criminal is called a defence lawyer. These lawyers regularly represent defendants on whom criminal, fraud, or insurance charges are brought.

Definition of Prosecutor

A prosecutor is someone who conducts legal procedures against the alleged or the defendant. So, a prosecutor will fight against a defence lawyer in criminal court.

Who Does the Prosecutor Represent?

The crown prosecutor does not defend or represent anyone. Neither is it their job to make sure a conviction takes place. Their main job is to represent the community’s local and federal interests. Their role is to see if a case has enough evidence and is in the public’s interest. If so, then the prosecutor decides to take the case to court.

This means the prosecutor neither works for the police nor the victims. Their sole job is to protect the interests of the people. Although they may meet the victim to gather testimony and even use them as a witness if required, they are not there to ensure a conviction.

Learn: How to Find the Best Criminal Defence Lawyer?

Prosecutor vs Defence Lawyer in the Court

As the definition suggests, a prosecutor tries to ensure the guilt of an alleged criminal. A defence lawyer defends the alleged criminal. Moreover, a prosecutor intends to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

On the other hand, a defence lawyer attempts to create that reasonable doubt to prove his/her client’s innocence.

However, when the judge decides on the guilt of the defendant, both the prosecutor and the defence lawyer work together in negotiating a maximum sentence.

In the following section, we will dive into a detailed concept of prosecutor vs defence lawyer.

Things That Create Differences between Defence Lawyers and Prosecutors

Apart from the things mentioned above, there are some other things that make a prosecutor different from a defence lawyer.

Here are a few notable things:

Their Required Qualification

Just like any other lawyer, both a defence lawyer and a prosecutor need to have a four-year undergrad degree, and three years of law school to get a Juris Doctor Degree. Both need to pass the bar examination to start their practice in Court.

However, their differences start with their activities in Court. The side they choose in a legal courtroom activity defines their type.

The Job Role

A prosecutor’s job is to accumulate evidence and a strong case against the defendant to prove the crime. However, a criminal defence lawyer does the exact opposite. A defence lawyer’s job is to gather all possible evidence in favour of the defendant.

The lawyer represents the alleged criminal and works to present a strong case to clear all the allegations.

Sector Working in

One of the major differences between the two types of lawyers is in the sector they work in. A prosecutor is allowed to work in criminal cases only.

However, a defence lawyer can work in both criminal and civil cases. In civil cases, a plaintiff can file a case against a defendant. A criminal defence lawyer can represent the defendant in such a civil manner as well.

Appointment Person

A district lawyer appoints a prosecutor. Prosecutors represent the office of a district lawyer, where the public money funds the office.

Criminal defence lawyers can be either public or private lawyers. A public defence lawyer is appointed by the Court, whereas the defendant cannot pay private criminal defence lawyer fees.

Learn More: What Is a Criminal Lawyer?

The Processing of a Case

The processing of a case is also different for these two professions. Let’s find an overview of these:

The Prosecution

When a person commits a serious crime and is arrested, his/her case goes to Court. All the evidence collected against the alleged criminal travels to the office of the district lawyer. The prosecutor in a district lawyer’s office will look into the files and decide on the criminal charges.

There is a misconception about the prosecution procedure. People think that a prosecutor represents the victims of a crime, which is not exactly the scenario. A prosecutor represents the justice system of a country and is responsible for serving justice and the public.

Under the common law, any defendant is innocent unless and until proven guilty. So, the prosecutor’s job in the process of a case is to prove enough evidence so that there is not a single shred of reasonable doubt. From the prosecutor’s point of view, there can be no other possible conclusion except to decide the guilt of the defendant.

The investigator gathers information from witnesses and gathers evidence for use in criminal prosecution while the CDPP prosecutes Commonwealth offences. The investigator is now referred to as the informant and briefs of evidence are sent to the CDPP.

When the CDPP chooses to file charges, an initiating process is sent to the defendant informing them of the charge and the date of their initial court appearance. Depending on the severity of the offence and the jurisdiction the matter is adjudicated, there are three tiers of courts that can hear criminal cases. The Local/Magistrates Court handles cases involving “summary offences,” which are less serious in nature. The defendant has three options: guilty, not guilty, or asking for a postponement so they can consult with attorneys. If the defendant enters a guilty plea, the magistrate will sentence them or transfer them to a higher court for sentencing. When a defendant enters a plea of guilty, witnesses are typically not called, and the Magistrate instead accepts an agreed statement of facts produced by the prosecution.

The Defence

The defendant is allowed to select a private criminal defence attorney before the criminal matter is heard by the court. If the defendant does not comply, the court will appoint a public defender to represent him or her in court.

An initial task for a defence attorney is to submit a motion for discovery. The prosecution is required to provide all of the evidence acquired against the defendant in response to this motion. The attorney will evaluate the pieces of evidence before getting to work on the case.

If the defendant is found guilty, the defence attorney would often propose a plea bargain. A plea bargain entails the prisoner admitting guilt to all counts in exchange for the defence attorney agreeing to a lesser punishment.

Learn More: How Much Does a Criminal Lawyer Make in Canada?

Criminal Defence Lawyer Salary

Lawyers can charge either a flat fee or an hourly rate depending on your type of case. According to Payscale report 2023, the flat fee is on average C$79,101, depending on the seriousness of the case.

On the other hand, different cases will lead to a variety in the amount charged hourly. In a felony case, the hourly cost is around $300 per hour. However, the rate can decrease or increase in regular misdemeanour or drug trafficking cases.

A criminal defence lawyer’s fees can depend on a few things. First of all, the investigation and witness-acquiring procedures impact the fee of a criminal defence lawyer. The more work there is, the more will be the cost.

Secondly, there are other several factors, such as:

  • Placement of the trial of the case
  • Is it a flat fee or an hourly rate?
  • Skills and experience of the defence lawyer
  • The seriousness of the criminal charges
  • The complexity of the criminal case

Prosecutor Salary

In Canada, the average prosecutor earns $98,703 a year, or $50.62 an hour. The starting salary for entry-level positions is $83,501, while the average yearly salary for experienced workers is $117,034.

Learn More: How to Become a Criminal Lawyer?

The Function of Lawyer and Prosecutor in Canada

In Canada, lawyers and prosecutors have different functions and responsibilities within the legal system.

Lawyers in Canada are legal professionals who are qualified to give legal advice and represent clients in legal matters. They may work in private practice or for government agencies, corporations, or non-profit organizations. Some common functions of lawyers in Canada include:

  • Advising clients on legal matters
  • Drafting legal documents, such as contracts and wills
  • Representing clients in court or in negotiations with other parties
  • Conducting legal research to support their clients’ cases
  • Mediating disputes between clients or other parties

Prosecutors in Canada, on the other hand, are lawyers who work for the government and are responsible for prosecuting criminal cases in court. Some common functions of prosecutors in Canada include:

  • Investigating and gathering evidence in criminal cases
  • Making decisions about whether to bring charges against a suspect
  • Representing the government in court during criminal trials
  • Negotiating plea bargains with defendants
  • Working with law enforcement agencies to ensure that justice is served in criminal cases

Overall, while both lawyers and prosecutors are legal professionals in Canada, their roles and responsibilities are distinct and serve different functions within the legal system.

Can a Lawyer Serve as both a Prosecutor and a Defence Lawyer?

This is an uncommon technique. The majority of lawyers focus on either defence lawyers or criminal prosecution. Moreover, most law firms primarily focus on defence lawyers or private prosecution. However, it is normal to see lawyers with experience working as criminal prosecution and defence lawyers.

A skilled lawyer who has handled both criminal prosecution and defence cases can better represent your interests in court when they are familiar with both sides of the justice system. Former prosecutors who are now representing clients in court have surgeon-like talents to build your best protection since they can predict the prosecutor’s expected actions so fast and effectively.


If you are caught in such a situation in real life, it is always helpful to know the differences between a prosecutor and vs lawyer. Although they have many similarities, their job role usually sets them apart.


Can an Attorney be a Prosecutor?

Can a lawyer work in defence and prosecution all at the same? This is an uncommon practice. The majority of lawyers focus on either criminal defence or criminal prosecution. Moreover, most law firms primarily focus on criminal defence or private prosecution.

Prosecutor vs Lawyer Who is More Powerful?

The answer is, as, with the majority of legal questions, it depends. There are various legal fields. Some lawyers could prefer to charge alleged offenders. Some lawyers could favour representing them.