Do You Need A Lawyer To Press Charges

Victims don’t always decide charges; prosecutors have the final say.

Victim’s testimony and cooperation with police and prosecutors can be vital for achieving justice.

What Does It Mean to Press Charges?

To press charges is to lodge a criminal complaint against an alleged wrongdoer, accusing them of crimes like assault, property damage, bribery, or theft.

Charges detail the crime, the defendant, and the penalties.

Press Charges
Do you need a lawyer to press charges?: Photo source (FindLaw)

“Pressing charges” is commonly used. Though each state differs, it usually involves:

  • Reporting a crime to police by victim or others.
  • Police investigating and collecting evidence.
  • Prosecutor assessing evidence for filing charges.

Ultimately, the prosecutor decides, but victims, witnesses, and police contribute.

How do you get Charges Filed?

What control do we have to file charges against someone? Provide evidence promptly, cooperate with authorities, and offer testimony if authorities pursue charges.

Prosecutors avoid weak cases with minimal evidence or uncooperative witnesses.

Remember, you can’t personally press or retract charges.

If you’re a victim who doesn’t want charges, you can ask prosecutors to drop them, but it’s their decision.

Determination of Probable Cause

Probable cause lacks a fixed definition; it means police reasonably believe a crime happened and the accused did it.

They weigh different evidence like victim/witness statements, accused’s statements, physical evidence, injuries, and audio/video recordings.

This proof, if enough, backs an arrest or warrant request. If no arrest, but evidence for a misdemeanor or petty crime (less serious), police can file a court complaint or charge document.

Defendants get mailed and must appear. For felonies, police give evidence to the prosecutor.

Roles of the Prosecutor and Grand Jury in Charging Decisions

A prosecutor assesses the police report to decide if the charges can proceed.

They must ensure, with available evidence, a trial victory.

A high “beyond reasonable doubt” standard is necessary, not merely probable cause. Prosecutors seek justice, not just convictions.

Need a lawyer to press charges
Do you need a lawyer to press charges: Source (FindLaw)

If evidence doesn’t support conviction, charges shouldn’t be filed.

In some states, prosecutors charge defendants with a complaint, reviewed by a judge to avoid baseless charges.

This review, often referred to as a probable cause or preliminary hearing, results in an “information” if they confirm probable cause.

Other states use grand juries, deciding if enough evidence for trial. If yes, they issue an indictment, formally starting the trial.

If I can’t File Charges, what else can I do to Protect Myself?

Especially in violent crime cases, it’s scary to know reporting doesn’t guarantee criminal consequences.

Fear of retribution often deters reporting, like in sexual assault or domestic violence cases.

While you lack control over criminal proceedings, other options exist for protection and compensation.

For example, restraining orders in domestic abuse cases don’t need ongoing charges.

Other offenses like revenge porn can result in pursuing significant consequences in civil courts.

An experienced attorney can guide you in filing civil cases or obtaining protective orders, easing anxiety and aiming for optimal outcomes.