An overview of how criminal charges are filed
If a person has committed a crime against another person, it’s typical for the victim to want to press charges. While filing criminal charges are a little more difficult than filing civil lawsuits, they can be filed.
Who is able to press charges?
First and foremost, criminal cases are not like civil cases. In civil cases, you are able to file charges against a person who did wrong to you. However in criminal cases, a prosecutor’s office files the criminal charge. While the victim can have influence on the prosecutor’s decision, ultimately it is up to the prosecutor on whether or not a charge will be filed.
Starting the process to press charges
Many times, a police report is what will start the criminal case. On the police report is important to include all the of information regarding the crime and about the person who committed it.
After the police report has been created, police will then do an investigation to obtain as much evidence as they are able to. If police find that there is strong evidence or even a witness of the crime, police will then have probable cause for an arrest warrant.
Probable cause is defined as a reasonable amount of suspicion, supported by circumstances sufficiently strong to justify a prudent and cautious person’s belief that certain facts are probably true. Probable cause is often supported by evidence.
Supporting evidence may include:
- Physical injuries to the victim
- Damage to property
- Any type of recording of the incident
- Statements from witnesses
Sometimes police might have probable cause to arrest a suspect without a warrant.
What is the prosecutor’s role in criminal charges?
At this point, the prosecutor’s office will review the police reports to determine if the evidence requires charges to be filed. It’s important to note that more than probable cause will be needed for an arrest to be made. This is because evidence needs to be strong enough for a trial victory to be probable.
If the criminal charge is a felony, prosecutors might need to do a little more work before charges will be pressed. For example, in certain states a grand jury is needed to indict the suspect, while in other states a prosecutor has to convince the judge that a trial is needed.
What is the victims role in criminal charges?
While the victim is unable to file the criminal charge by themselves, working closely with a criminal attorney makes it more likely that the police and prosecutor can make a strong case against the suspect. This is because a criminal attorney in San Marcos can help ensure that everything that can be used to make a strong case against the suspect, is being used. Without cooperation and enough evidence, there may not be a strong enough case to go to trial.
In certain circumstances, a prosecutor may decide to go forward with a case even when a victim decides not to press charges. If this happens, the victim will receive a subpoena to be required to appear at the trial. Refusal to appear in the trial may mean being held in contempt of court or being arrested.
Statutes of limitations
It’s possible that the person who was wronged is not certain of whether or not they want to file a police report. While this is that person’s right, there is a limited amount of time to make this decision.
This is because prosecutors need to file charges within a specified period of time after a crime has been commited. This is referred to as the statute of limitations.
While this period of time varies from state to state and by the type of crime, the range is usally between 1 and 5 years. So if the decision is to file a police report, it should be completed promptly to ensure the police and prosecution have ample time to go through process.
Use of a criminal lawyer to press charges
If you have questions about criminal charges or even about testifying against a suspect, we are here to help you understand your rights in your situation. The assistance of a criminal lawyer in San Marcos can help make the process much easier and understandable.