What does it mean to press charges against someone?
Pressing charges against someone means prosecuting a criminal case against a suspect of a crime. This is done by a prosecutor, not the victim of the crime. While the victim of a crime is not responsible for pressing charges, you usually need to file a police report about a crime someone committed against you to enable the prosecutor to press charges, and your report will provide key testimony for the case.
Unlike when you sue someone, you are not responsible for organizing or paying for the prosecution of the case. Also unlike when you sue someone, you will not benefit financially from the outcome of the case if it is decided in court; however, you can agree to accept financial compensation as part of a plea bargain, often in exchange for you pressing a charge that carries less severe punishment.
How Does Police Decide Whether to Press Charges?
The police also do not press charges against you, but they do file a report of their own which factors into the prosecutor’s decision of whether to press charges or not.
How Does a Prosecutor Decide to Press Charges?
The prosecutor starts the decision-making process by reviewing all of the evidence of the case, the complaint itself, and police reports of the alleged crime.
Next, the prosecutor must review the strength of the case, and whether prosecuting it is a good use of public resources. In other words, if the prosecutor believes that pressing charges is unlikely to result in a conviction, they may decide not to do it. This decision will consider the relevant local laws and legal precedents, the suspect’s prior criminal history, and the expected level of cooperation from victims and witnesses.
They also need to consider whether it is worth allocating some of the prosecution office’s limited resources to pressing charges in this case. For example, if the prosecution office is focusing its resources on serious crimes such as violent felonies and homicides, they may decide not to spend their resources on pressing minor fraud charges.
In some states, the prosecutor will present the evidence of the case to a grand jury. The grand jury will hear the prosecutor’s case against the defendant and decide whether the evidence of the case supports the criminal charges being proposed or not. This decision does not decide whether or not the defendant is guilty. If the grand jury decides that the available evidence justifies pressing charges against the defendant, they will issue an indictment, allowing the prosecutor to proceed with the case.
What Happens If the Prosecutor Refuses to Press Charges?
If the prosecutor concludes that there is not enough evidence to put forward a case, or that they want to focus their resources elsewhere, they can decide not to press charges against the defendant.
As a general rule, the prosecutor cannot be forced to press charges if they decide against it. Their decision is not necessarily final, however. If they are put under political or public pressure to press charges, they may choose to re-review the case or put it in front of a grand jury to be sure that they made the right decision. This can happen at any time after their decision not to press charges until the statute of limitations on those charges expires.
The statute of limitations means that depending on the charge, there is a time limit on the prosecutor’s ability to press charges. Once that amount of time has passed after the alleged crime took place, the defendant can file a motion to dismiss the case outright, and judges have to accept that motion. Unless the defendant feels a need to clear their name in the public eye, they have no real reason to defend themselves against a case they can dismiss in this way.
How Do You Know if Someone Presses Charges Against You?
There are a few ways you find out if someone has pressed charges against you.
It is a common myth that police have to tell you what you are being charged with when they arrest you. If you are arrested, there is no legal requirement to inform you of your charges until a hearing called an arraignment. At the arraignment, you will hear the charges being pressed against you, and say whether you are going to plead guilty or not guilty. A Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer can help you find out a lot of the information you need when you are in custody and not getting any answers from the police.
There are ways to find out about charges that have been pressed against you before your arrest or arraignment, however. Police reports are public documents, and you have a right to read police reports about incidents you are alleged to have been involved in. If you are having charges pressed against you, they will be in the police report.
If you have not been arrested but you think there may be charges filed against you that you want to prepare for, you can contact the local criminal court and ask if there are any court dates, bench warrants, or pending cases filed against you. The sooner you find out about charges against you, the sooner you can contact an investigations lawyer to improve your hand at the pre-trial negotiations.
You can also ask the police to perform a check for charges against you. If they are investigating your involvement in a crime but have not pressed charges yet, they do not have to tell you that they are investigating you.
How long can someone press charges against you?
The statute of limitations on the charges determines how long after the incident they can be pressed. This could be as short as a year or two for minor offenses, while serious crimes can have a time limit measured in decades or no time limit at all.
If you have been taken into police custody, there is a much shorter time limit on how long you can be held before hearing your charges. Depending on local law, your arraignment usually has to happen within 2 or 3 days of your arrest. After that, the prosecutor can still decide to press charges against you, but you cannot be held in jail longer than that without charges.
Can you go to jail if someone presses Charges?
The police do not always arrest you and take you to jail if someone files a report against you, or if the prosecutor decides to press charges. Whether or not you will go to jail before your court decision depends on how much you are considered a risk, either in terms of your likelihood of going on the run, of committing further crimes, or of influencing the victims and witnesses of your case (which also falls under the category of committing further crimes). This decision is also determined by your charges and criminal history.
How Can I Fight Charges Pressed Against Me in California?
If someone is pressing charges against you in California, Manshoory Law Group can help you organize an independent investigation of the incident, prepare a stronger defense, or get a better deal in a plea bargain. Before your trial, we can also help get you out of jail by fighting to reduce your bail amount and helping you secure bail bonds. Contact the best lawyer in LA for a free consultation of your case.