Duties of the County Attorney
County Civil CounselThe County Attorney is legal adviser to the County Board of Commissioners and other County personnel and legal advocate for the county in court cases in which the county is a party.
The County Attorney is not required to provide legal advice to members of the general public.
Occasionally a citizen requests that the County Attorney’s Office advise him / her on a private legal matter. The citizen may feel that his/her taxes pay the County Attorney’s salary and as a result they are entitled to such advice. However the County Attorney’s Office is not a private law firm. The responsibility is to County government. If County government is given proper legal services, all taxpayers will benefit.
Criminal ProsecutorMany states have district attorneys (often referred to as DA’s) who prosecute criminal cases. In Minnesota, criminal prosecution is performed by County Attorneys and City Attorneys. Felonies (such as such as rape, robbery, murder, and forgeries) are prosecuted by County Attorneys.
Other crimes may be prosecuted by a County Attorney or City Attorney depending upon a number of factors. (City attorneys in Minnesota are responsible for prosecuting most misdemeanor violations, which occur within the city. The Mankato City Attorney prosecutes most misdemeanors, which occur within the City of Mankato.) The Blue Earth County Attorneys Office serves as city prosecutor for some of the smaller cities located within Blue Earth County.
In order to charge a crime, a County Attorney must be able to prove that there is probable cause to believe a specific defendant committed a specific crime on a specific date within the county. To convict, the County Attorney must prove those same factors beyond a reasonable doubt.
Not an Investigator
County Attorney’s do not investigate crimes. Investigations are conducted by law enforcement officers such as the police or sheriff. The police and sheriff gather evidence (e.g. statements from witnesses, fingerprints, drug tests, ballistic tests) and submit the evidence to the County Attorney for review and a charging decision.