If you find yourself in the position where you’re wondering what happens when someone presses charges against you, it can be a confusing time. For the most part, prosecutors are the ones who decide whether the state will press criminal charges against a suspect.
That being said, victims still play a valuable role when it comes to making charging decisions. Since charging decisions rest on more than one person, understanding the process for pressing criminal charges is crucial if you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to press charges or someone is pressing them against you.
What Does It Mean to Press Criminal Charges?
So, what exactly does it mean to press criminal charges? When you or someone else presses criminal charges, it means filing a criminal complaint against someone who you believe committed a crime.
Criminal charges can be anything from property damage, vandalism, theft, bribing an official, assault, sexual assault, or homicide, to name a few. When filing criminal charges, there’s the list of the charges that the accused supposedly committed, the defendant or who allegedly committed the crimes, and the penalties for each offense.
Pressing charges refers to several actions. It can vary from state to state, but generally, pressing charges consists of the following:
- Someone reporting a crime to the police (it can be the victim, witness, or someone the victim told)
- The police will launch an investigation to look for evidence of the alleged crime.
- The prosecutor will review the allegations and collected evidence to determine if they warrant a criminal complaint.
- They’ll take into account the victim’s opinions, the police, and witnesses, but the prosecutor has the final say if they will press criminal charges.
Criminal charges can have a lasting impact on your life. Don’t leave your future to chance – hire a qualified Bakersfield criminal lawyer to help protect your rights and defend your case.
How Pressing Criminal Charges Works
TV shows and movies make pressing criminal charges look simple. While they can be simple in many cases, it’s not as easy as saying you want to press criminal charges against someone you believe committed a crime.
You can’t just call the police or walk into the station and press criminal charges. You can start the process of pressing criminal charges by reporting the crime. The police will come to you, or you could call to speak with them to report the crime if the crime happened previously.
You’ll need to provide a complete statement on what happened, when, and if you know who supposedly committed the crime. From there, the police will determine if there’s probable cause to arrest the suspect. They’ll evaluate your statement and gather evidence of the said crime.
Once they do this and determine there’s probable cause, they’ll arrest the suspect, but then it’s up to the prosecutor if they will press criminal charges against the suspect.
Path of a Typical Arrest
No two arrests are 100% identical, but there are what most law enforcement would consider the typical arrests. Usually, a victim or someone who witnessed the crime will contact the police to inform them of the crime.
The police will arrive on the scene or meet the victim somewhere to gather their statement and all information they can provide about the crime. In some cases, the suspect will still be at the scene of the crime, which allows the police to arrest them quickly.
But suspects don’t often linger around the crime scene and get away. When the suspect isn’t at the scene anymore, they’ll need to request an arrest warrant from a judge to track them down and bring them into the station under probable cause.
In the event that an arrest warrant is needed, the police will need to gather enough evidence for probable cause to present to the judge before they can sign off on the warrant.
Determination of Probable Cause
Having probable cause is essential to any criminal charges. While there’s not one specific definition of probable cause, the police must believe there are reasonable grounds to prosecute someone for a crime they likely committed. Law enforcement will use a variety of evidence to determine if there is probable cause in criminal cases such as:
- Physical evidence
- Statements from witnesses
- Statements from the victim(s)
If they determine there’s probable cause, they’ll issue an arrest warrant for the person who allegedly committed the crime.
Roles of the Prosecutor and Grand Jury in Charging Decisions
When deciding to press criminal charges, the prosecutor will review all the police statements and evidence to determine whether the government has a case. The goal is to win the trial, and that is very dependent on the evidence, victim statements, and witness statements.
If they want to win a trial, the prosecution has to convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crimes they’re accused of. If they’re unsure they can do this, then they might pause on pressing charges until their case is ironclad.
When the evidence doesn’t support a conviction, they will likely not press charges. In some states, the prosecutor will press criminal charges, but the judge has the final approval. The judge will review all the same information, determine if the prosecution has a solid case, and give their final approval before moving forward with the charges.
In other states, once the prosecutor presses charges, it goes to a grand jury to determine if there’s enough evidence for a trial.
Role of the Victim in Pressing Charges
We’ve already stated that the prosecutor is the sole decider of whether they’ll press criminal charges, but the victim plays a substantial role in their decision.
Prosecutors will often consider the victim’s statements and personal thoughts on the matter. They’ll also base their decision on the victim’s level of cooperation. Prosecutors will be more likely to press charges with a cooperative victim.
The Unwilling Prosecutor
In some cases, the victim is willing and ready to press criminal charges against someone, but the prosecutor might not want to. They might come to this decision based on there not being enough evidence to get a conviction, even with the victim’s testimony.
The victim can fight for themselves and try to change the prosecutor’s mind, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to what the prosecutor decides. While this can be upsetting for the victim, pressing charges without a solid case could mean the defendant walks.
The Unwilling Victim
In many cases, the victim doesn’t want to press charges for whatever reason. Unwilling victims are commonly seen in domestic violence cases because they don’t want to further anger the defendant. A prosecutor can consider a victim’s unwillingness, but they might choose to pursue the case despite the victim not wanting to press charges.
What Happens After a Decision to Press Charges?
Nothing can move forward until the prosecutor decides whether to press charges or not. Once they come to the decision to press criminal charges, the criminal justice system gets kicked into high gear.
Depending on the severity of the charges depends on what exactly happens next after the decision to prosecute. For serious crimes, the prosecutor often seeks a warrant for the defendant’s arrest so they can be in custody and can’t run.
For less severe criminal cases, the defendant might receive a summons in the mail or from a notary stating that they need to appear in court.
Depending on the situation, the defense and prosecutor might come to a deal that satisfies the victim without going to court, but in some cases, a criminal trial will be held. It all depends on the specific crime and situation. Your attorney will be able to walk you through the process and keep you posted on everything they need from you.
Whether you’ve been the victim of a crime or have been subpoenaed to testify in a criminal case, hiring legal representation is a good idea. A qualified criminal attorney can help you understand how the process works and fight for the outcome you want.
Attorneys can help you build your case against the person you’re pressing charges against, gather additional evidence, and have further suggestions on how to get through this time.
Even if you receive a subpoena, an attorney can help you with any questions you might have about testifying. Testifying can be nerve-wracking, and a qualified attorney can help you feel more prepared and ready to testify in court for a criminal case.
Contact Garret T. Rice for Help
If you’re wondering what happens if someone presses charges on you, it can be a scary time. The best thing you can do if someone is pressing charges against you is to hire a skilled attorney to help you navigate the legal waters and prepare your defense.
Contact Garret T. Rice if you’re facing criminal charges and need assistance. We’ll review your case and do everything in our power to get the charges dropped or reduced or find a deal that works for you. Contact us today if you’re ready to have a high-quality defense attorney on your side.