The Role of the District Attorney's Office

Have you ever wondered what the role of the District Attorney’s Office consists of, in addition to prosecuting criminal cases?

District Attorney Heather Adams, in collaboration with MyDistrictAttorneyPA.com, has developed an educational brochure on the role of the District Attorney.  The brochure includes facts about the modern-day district attorney and a list of resources for the citizens of Lancaster County.


What Do We Do?

                -Protect and support victims of crime. Our office is a strong advocate for victims, and we speak for victims of crime at hearings, in court, to the judge, and the jury. District Attorneys connect victims with services and resources. The District Attorney’s office aims to treat all victims with respect and dignity.  The District Attorney’s Office of Lancaster County has three victim-witness advocates who work with victims of adult offenders, two who work with victims of juvenile offenders, an advocate for children and sexual assault victims, an advocate for victims of domestic violence, an advocate for elderly victims, three restitution advocates, three support staff and the program director.

                -Seek justice. Our office examines evidence, decides whether to prosecute, represents the citizens of Lancaster County, and, in certain circumstances, leads grand jury investigations. Our work holds murderers, child abusers, sexual predators, and other criminals accountable. Under certain circumstances, we can help people with second chances. Rehabilitation and restorative justice can help individuals turn around their lives. Lancaster County has three specialty treatment courts: Drug Treatment, Mental Health and Veterans Courts. All of these courts are participated in by our Community Prosecutor. 

                -Promote public safety. District Attorneys are teachers, listeners, innovators, and community partners. We engage with residents, neighborhoods, businesses, and community organizers to educate students and senior citizens, encourage good relationships between the police and all communities, work with victim outreach centers, participate in law enforcement initiatives, and develop crime prevention solutions. Ensuring the safety of the public is of utmost importance to us.


What Motivates Us?

Assistant District Attorneys in the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office said they are motivated by:

              “Seeking justice for those that cannot seek justice for themselves.”

“I am inspired to seek justice for victim’s families that have lost loved ones as the result of heinous crimes.”

“I worked hard for my voice and now I can come to work every day with the ability to use it for people who feel they have lost theirs.”

“Victims should know they have a collective voice in us even when they feel powerless. Together, we’re not powerless.”

             “I feel pride in what I do for the community and making it a safer place.”


The Facts

FACT:    The American justice system is designed to prevent a concentration of power.

                -Legislatures create the laws people must follow.

                -Prosecutors make sure arrests are lawful and appropriate.

                -Judges set bail based on factors such as risk of flight and if someone is a danger to the community.

                -Only a judge or a jury can convict someone of a crime. Prosecutors present evidence during a trial or plea agreement.

                -Plea bargains must be approved by judges.

                -Judges determine sentences, usually within the range of punishment set by the legislature.

FACT:    District Attorneys are accountable to:

                -Voters every four years.

                -The media, victims, the police, and watch-dog groups.

                -Local judges and the appellate courts.

                -State and local laws, the PA Constitution, the U.S. Constitution, and strict ethical rules.

FACT:    District Attorneys work locally to improve the system through:

                -Specialty Courts such as Mental Health, Drug, and Veterans.

                -Diversionary Programs that work to keep people out of the criminal justice system, such as Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD).

                -Treatment Programs that provide drug/alcohol and mental health assistance.


“It’s important for the public to be aware and knowledgeable on the objectives and purpose of our office,” District Attorney Adams said. “At the end of the day, we exist to advocate for victims, seek justice in criminal cases and promote safety within the community. On the outside, it may look like we are solely prosecuting criminal cases, but our office is dedicated to more than just that. Building trust within the community is important to create a safe and just environment for all.”

Physical copies of the brochure can be found at the Lancaster County Courthouse, Magisterial District Judge offices, various police departments across the county and our partner agencies. It can also be found here.

MEDIA CONTACT: Sean McBryan, semcbryan@co.lancaster.pa.us; Twitter: @SeanMcBryanLanc.