The answer is that it depends on the prosecutor, and the arrangement that individual has with the government entity that he/she is the prosecutor for.
Let us explain.
How Do Prosecutors Get Paid? (EXPLAINED)
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There are a few ways that prosecutors get paid, and it depends on how they got the job.
Contract Prosecutor vs Employee Prosecutor
In most offices, whether the prosecutor was elected, appointed, or hired on by the chief, that prosecutor is treated as a public employee.
This is usually the case for prosecutor offices at the county, state, and federal level.
But in smaller jurisdictions (even at the county level), it does not make financial sense to have a full-time prosecutor’s office.
Instead, the government entity (like the city), will seek the assistance of an outside lawyer or law firm to serve as a contractor for the government in the position of prosecutor.
Prosecutors Are Paid By The Government
In either case, as employees or as contractors, the prosecutors receive their compensation from the coffers of the government entity they work for.
These amounts may be established by statute.
Or the amounts may be reviewed and approved in the local budgeting process.
In most instances, the compensation amounts are a matter of public record, and citizens should be able to access details about the compensation arrangements (so long as it is not personal information about the person receiving the payments, like social security numbers, birth dates and such.
Do Prosecutors Get Paid When They Lose?
Yes, prosecutors get paid when they win and when they lose.
Generally, most prosecutors receive a month salary that covers all of their work for the government.
Trials are a very small part of their overall duties.
While it helps a prosecutor advance in his career to win as many of his cases as possible, there is much out of his control (like the opinions of 6-12 jurors).
So losses do happen.
This is contrary to what happens when lawyers are retained in a contingency fee case.
A contingency fee is when the attorney only earns his attorney fees when the case concludes successfully (meaning when money is obtained).
In a contingent fee case, if there is no money recovered, the attorney does not receive any payment for his attorney fees.
The client is on the hook for expenses though, regardless of whether the case is won or lost.
Prosecutors Have Only One Client
Unless they are private retained lawyers who have taken on the contract of the prosecution office, prosecutors do not have clients the way that retained private lawyers do.
They have one client, and that is the government entity.
They do not work for the police officers or any other law enforcement agency.
And those individuals also do not work for the prosecutor.
This is why their payment/compensation situation is fairly simple to understand.
How Much Do Prosecutors Make?
This varies state to state, and county to county.
The range is super broad also based upon experience.
A beginning prosecutor straight out of law school could be looking to earn in the mid $40,000s, while a upper level experienced prosecutor could be looking at over six figures.
For example, in Oregon in 2021, Lincoln County advertised for District Attorneys at Levels 1-3, with the salary range of $76,000 to $89,000.
In another example, in California in 2021, Tulare County advertised for District Attorneys Levels 1-4, with the salary range of $63,000 to $120,000.
In yet another example, in Georgia in 2021, Dougherty County advertised for an Assistant District Attorney, with the salary range of $47,000-$70,000.
Another thing to consider is the additional benefits perks of working for a government entity. Medical and dental benefits and retirement benefits are usually also part of the package, which can make the listed salary even more attractive.
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