CSAO: Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Division of Criminal Justice, and what does it do?

We are Connecticut's prosecutors -- the attorneys responsible for the investigation and prosecution of all crimes that occur in the State. Our job is to bring people who break the law to justice. Whether a defendant is charged with a stop sign violation or murder, we present the state's case, on behalf of the people of Connecticut, in court.

What is the difference between the Division of Criminal Justice (and the Chief State's Attorney) and the Attorney General?

In many states, there is no difference -- they are one and the same. In Connecticut, however, the Attorney General exercises only civil jurisdiction. That means his office is basically in the business of bringing lawsuits in the civil courts, or to defend the State when it is sued. With very few limited exceptions the Attorney General has no jurisdiction whatsoever over criminal matters and no authority to prosecute criminal violations of the law.

The state Constitution places the sole responsibility for the prosecution of all criminal matters with the Division of Criminal Justice, i.e., the Chief State's Attorney and the thirteen State's Attorneys. The Chief State's Attorney, may, however, as he deems appropriate, designate the Attorney General to handle specific criminal cases on a case-by-case basis. Again, this occurs only under very limited circumstances.

Is the Division of Criminal Justice a part of the Connecticut State Police or the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (formerly the Department of Public Safety)?

No. Although the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection and the Division of Criminal Justice are both a part of the executive branch of state government, they are separate and independent agencies. However, the Connecticut State Police (which is part of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection) and the Division of Criminal Justice work closely together in criminal matters, especially in cases investigated by the State Police and in cooperative task forces.

What does the Chief State's Attorney do?

The Chief State's Attorney is a constitutional officer, which means the position was specifically established under the State Constitution. The Chief State's Attorney serves as both the administrative head of the Division of Criminal Justice and as the Chief Prosecutor for the State of Connecticut. In his administrative capacity, the Chief State's Attorney is responsible for planning, budgeting, legislative proposals, training, payroll and related functions of the Division of Criminal Justice. The prosecutorial aspect of the Chief State's Attorney requires oversight of criminal investigations and prosecutions handled by the specialized bureaus and units in the Office of the Chief State's Attorney, as well as coordination and assistance to the thirteen State's Attorneys throughout the state.

What do the State's Attorneys do?

The State's Attorneys are also constitutional officers. They have primary jurisdiction over law enforcement matters and the prosecution of criminal matters in the Judicial District they serve. The State of Connecticut is divided into thirteen Judicial Districts where the vast majority of criminal cases are filed. The most serious cases are handled in the "Part A" courts. Less serious criminal offenses and motor vehicle cases are handled in the "Part B" courts, which are also known as the G.A., for Geographical Area, courts. A Supervisory Assistant State's Attorney oversees the prosecutors in each G.A. court under the direction of the State's Attorney.

What is the difference between state and federal prosecutors?

State prosecutors are responsible for prosecuting offenses that violate the Connecticut state laws enacted by the General Assembly (the General Statutes). Federal prosecutors have jurisdiction over crimes that violate the federal laws enacted by Congress. State prosecutors do handle cases in the federal courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States, usually in federal actions attacking a conviction under a state law.

Who selects Connecticut's state prosecutors?

All state prosecutors in Connecticut are appointed by the Criminal Justice Commission. This commission was established when the voters of Connecticut approved the 23rd Amendment to the Connecticut Constitution in 1984. The commission consists of the Chief State's Attorney and six members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the General Assembly.

The Chief State's Attorney is appointed for a five-year term; the Deputy Chief State's Attorneys are appointed for four-year terms; and the thirteen State's Attorneys are appointed for eight-year terms. All other prosecutors (Assistant State's Attorneys) are appointed by the Criminal Justice Commission on the recommendation of the Chief State's Attorney and serve open-ended terms (until they retire, resign or are removed for just cause).

How are criminal cases prosecuted in Connecticut?

Prosecutors rely on police officers to investigate an allegation that someone has committed a crime. In many cases, the police make an arrest at the scene of a crime. The person arrested is then presented to the court to determine if there is probable cause to believe that he or she committed the crime charged by the police. The prosecutor then determines whether to proceed with the case.

In other cases, prior to any arrest, the police do not make an arrest directly from their investigation, but provide the information they have collected to the prosecutor. The prosecutor will then review the case and decide if the case will be presented to a judge for the issuance of an arrest warrant.

A prosecutor may decline to request an arrest warrant if he or she determines that the evidence collected by the police is not sufficient to prove that a crime has been committed, or to prove who committed the crime.

The prosecutor also may order further investigation, either by the police, or in unusual cases, by an investigatory grand jury. Once an arrest warrant is signed by a judge, the person named in the warrant is arrested and the case begins its way through the court system.

How can I learn more about Connecticut's criminal laws?

Connecticut's criminal laws are contained in an official compendium of the state's laws called the "General Statutes of Connecticut." The multi-volume set, published by the state, is updated every two years to incorporate the new laws and revisions enacted by the General Assembly. The General Statutes are available at most public libraries across the state, or can be accessed by following this link.

Reported cases, which also affect the law of the state, can be found in public law libraries throughout the state or at the State Law Library in Hartford. Some reported decisions may also be found on the internet. For opinions from the Connecticut Supreme Court and the Connecticut Appellate Court, visit the Judicial Branch website.

How can I learn more about the criminal justice system?

Your public library holds a wealth of information about the criminal justice system. You may also be interested in these links, which provide useful information about criminal law and law enforcement in general.

How can I learn of employment opportunities in the Division of Criminal Justice?

The Division of Criminal Justice is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer. Positions advertised to the public may include prosecutors, inspectors, investigators, managers, accountants and clerical staff, to name a few. Follow this link for a listing of current employment opportunities. Employment applications are required for all advertised positions and can be obtained at any State's Attorney's Office, at the Chief State's Attorney's Office, 300 Corporate Place, Rocky Hill, Connecticut, 06067, or downloaded in PDF format by following this link.

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Content Last Modified on 1/25/2012 4:27:33 PM