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  • A criminal proceeding to determine a defendant's innocence or guilt. The term is also used to identify the government as the appellant party in a case. Crimes can only be prosecuted at the county, state, and federal levels by salaried government lawyers (prosecutors). A victim cannot hire a private attorney to represent him or her in a criminal trial. Private attorneys can be hired to sue a defendant after the criminal trial, in a civil court for tort claims. Prosecutors can only handle criminal cases; civil cases are therefore outside their jurisdiction. The chief prosecutor of a county, the state district attorney, and the attorney general can be either elected or appointed.

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