What Is the Difference Between the Los Angeles District Attorney and the Los Angeles City Attorney?

Jerod Gunsberg, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

There are two main prosecution agencies in the City of Los Angeles, the Office of the Los Angeles District Attorney and the Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney. Many people often wonder what the difference is between the two.

The Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney handles all misdemeanor crimes which occur within the City of Los Angeles. This means they handle all misdemeanor DUIs, petty theft (shoplifting) prostitution cases, drunk in public, domestic violence, assault and battery, vandalism, firearm cases, municipal code violations (like escorting without a permit or housing code violations). Misdemeanors can only be prosecuted one year after the offense and carry a maximum one year in county jail (although many carry substantially less penalties). In Los Angeles, City Attorney cases are heard in the Airport Courthouse, East Los Angeles Courthouse, Van Nuys Courthouse, and Criminal Courts Building (formally called the Clara Shortridge Foltz Justice Center).

The Office of the District Attorney handles all felony cases in the City of Los Angeles and all cases, both misdemeanors an felonies, outside the city limits of Los Angeles, but still within the county of Los Angeles. So if you get a misdemeanor violation of the Penal, Vehicle or Health and Safety Code or a felony in a a city like Malibu, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood or any other area that is not in the actually City of Ls Angeles, it will be handled by the city Attorney. And again, felonies are handled by the District Attorney regardless of where they occur.

Confused yet? Here’s something else you should know. Some cities within Los Angeles County have their own City Attorney Offices to handle misdemeanors. For example, Santa Monica has a City Attorney’s office to handle misdemeanor filings. But Beverly Hills uses the District Attorney’s office to handle the vast majority of misdemeanors. And some cities contract out with local law firms to serve as their “city attorney’s office” to prosecute local municipal code violations.

Something else to know is that sometimes people get arrested on felonies and the case is then presented to the District Attorney by the police. The DA’s office may decide the allegations don’t rise to felony conduct and refer the matter to the local City Attorney’s  Office. This is why every competent attorney knows to check with the local city attorney even if the DA rejects the case. Make sure your lawyer knows to do that!

If you or a loved one is being prosecuted by the Los Angeles City Attorney, the Los Angeles District Attorney or any prosecutorial agency, contact the Law Offices of Jerod Gunsberg at (323) 633-3423 or via the secure contact form on this page to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

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