By Jed McKeehan

You will often see articles about district attorneys in the newspaper.  District attorneys are the lawyers who are employees of the state whose sole job it is to prosecute criminals who are charged with breaking state laws.  You will often see articles about someone getting tried for a murder or some other heinous crime and the article will cite the name of the district attorney(s) who are prosecuting the case.

Over the years, district attorneys can become fairly well-known just because their name may make it in to the newspaper for cases that they have prosecuted.  They can often be portrayed or viewed by the public as white knights of a sort because their job is to put bad guys in jail, which is kind of cool.  While what these district attorneys do is very important, they are definitely not making millions of dollars doing it.  Because these attorneys are considered employees of the state, their income is set by statute and is a matter of public record.

How much do they make?  Well, let’s first talk about the elected District Attorney General (DA).  The elected DA is the boss of district attorney’s office and is often more of an administrator than an in-court prosecutor.  Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) Section 8-7-105, as of September 1, 2006, every elected District Attorney General makes $124,900.00 per year.  And every year after that, they are essentially entitled to a cost of living increase along with every other state employee.

The Assistant District Attorneys (ADA) who work under the elected DA are the prosecutors who are typically in court trying cases.  Their incomes are also set by statute at TCA Section 8-7-201 and it is based strictly on years of service.  For an ADA with one year of service, they make 60% of what the DA makes.  The maximum amount of money an ADA makes is after six years of service, when they make 85% of what the DA makes.


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.