Have you ever wondered who gets to make the decision whether charges will be pressed? You hear it all the time on television, in movies, or maybe even in person – when a crime is committed, a victim will typically say whether or not they would like to press charges. But who really gets to make that decision? In all cases, ranging anywhere from robbery to murder, it’s not up to the victim or their family to make that decision. While many people might think that it’s the victim’s decision whether or not the case will go forward, it’s actually the police and the prosecutor who get to make the decision. Prosecutors are the people who, based on items such as evidence and statements, make the decision whether or not to file charges.
The process of pressing charges starts when someone calls 911. The police will create a report and record information, and then the report will be turned over to the local district or state attorney. A prosecuting lawyer will be assigned to the case, and they will review the police reports and listen to victim and witness statements. A decision will then be made as to whether or not charges will be filed. If filed, the process from start to finish can take anywhere from a few days to a few months; the decision is on a case-by-case basis, and some cases take longer than others due to different circumstances. If charges are filed, a trial date will be set and the prosecutor will continue building their case.
There are times when a victim doesn’t want charges to be pressed, and won’t work with the police or the prosecutor if they pursue the case. If this happens, there are a few things that can happen. The first thing that could happen is that the prosecutor decides to continue on with the case without the help of the victim. The initial statements and police reports can be used during the trial, and they wouldn’t need to have the victim testify. If they need the testimony, a subpoena can be sent to the victim and other witnesses to testify during court. If a subpoena is refused, the person could be found in contempt of court and they may be sent to jail until they testify.
Charges may only be pursued during criminal proceedings. Civil proceedings, such as a lawsuit, can still be filed by the victim or the victim’s family for monetary damages once the criminal proceedings have finished. A defendant does not need to have been found guilty by the court for civil proceedings to happen, but it helps build a civil case for the victim or the family if the defendant was found guilty during criminal court.
At Fankhauser Rachel, PLC, we are real people who offer our clients real solutions when they are facing struggles and obstacles. If charges have been filed against you in a criminal proceeding and you are looking for fair representation in court, please contact us today to schedule your consultation and find out how we can help.