The Players in a Criminal Case


An attorney for the government who brings criminal cases against individuals. A prosecutor can be either a state district attorneys or a federal U.S. attorney. There are also other offices in New York that can prosecute such as the state Attorney General's Office, the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, and the U.S. Department of Justice. All of these are considered "prosecutors".

U.S. Attorney or ''The Government''

Federal (U.S.) prosecutors who bring charges in federal court. Federal prosecutors in New York City belong to either the Eastern District of New York U.S. Attorney's Office (which includes Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island) or the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney's Office (which includes Manhattan, the Bronx and the northern suburbs).

District Attorney or DA or ''The People''

Local—i.e. county-level—state prosecutors. The Manhattan DA is Cryrus Vance. There are separate DAs for Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Westchester and Putnam.

Assistant DA or Assistant U.S. Attorney

The actual prosecuting lawyer who handles the case.


A person formally accused of a crime in a complaint or an indictment.

Defense Lawyer

A person who represents a defendant in court. A private attorney may be hired by the defendant. A defendant who cannot afford a lawyer is represented by Legal Aid or from a panel of private attorneys who accept indigent cases.

18-B Lawyer

18-B lawyers are members of a panel screened by the courts and paid by the court to represent poor defendants in New York State courts. Unfortunately, this office does not offer 18-B representation at this time. If you are unhappy with your current court-appointed lawyer, you should ask the judge directly for a new lawyer.

Legal Aid Society

Legal Aid is an organization devoted to defending poor people in New York City. Legal Aid recently brought a class action that secured additional rights for sex offenders with respect to their registration.


The person who presides over the case. In the U.S. the judge is neutral — meaning he does not bring evidence against a person or help the prosecution. His job is to administer the law and rules fairly. See Courts.


Federal Bureau of Investigation. Investigates all federal crimes such as sexual exploitation of children.


Drug Enforcement Administration. Investigates federal drug crimes.

Postal Inspectors

Investigate mail fraud and crimes against postal facilities. May be involved in child pornography investigations that use the mails.


The New York City Police Department, which handles local and state offenses in New York City. The current department, headed by Raymond Kelly, took shape when the New York City Housing Police and New York City Transit Bureau were merged into the NYPD.


Department of Homeland Security, includes the old INS and Customs. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) can investigate and make arrests related to international sex crimes.