How to File Criminal Charges on Someone

Written by maria lassen
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How to File Criminal Charges on Someone
Police have discretion in filing criminal charges. (Siri Stafford/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Police do not always file criminal charges when called to end a disturbance or dispute. Sometimes through interviewing individuals, an officer may find that the facts on either side of the case are too conflicting to warrant charges against anyone. Other times, officers, at their discretion, may not find enough probable cause to arrest someone. Of course, there are also instances when police are not involved and you may decide to pursue charges yourself.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Visit the city police department in the jurisdiction where the crime took place. If you are not sure which department has jurisdiction, call the nearest police department and advise them of where the incident took place. An officer there will tell you who has jurisdiction.

  2. 2

    Ask to speak to an officer. Let him know that you want to report a crime and pursue charges. Explain what happened and who was involved. He will decide whether your claim warrants further investigation. Follow up with the officer who took your report within a few days.

  3. 3

    Contact the city prosecutor's office if the officer decides against filing charges. Just because the officer did not find probable cause to file charges doesn't mean the prosecutor will agree with him. The prosecutor's may require you to fill out a prosecutor "field" form. This is similar to filing a police report.

  4. 4

    The prosecutor will review the form and decide whether or not to file criminal charges. If the prosecutor determines criminal charges are warranted, you will be asked to sign a complaint and the charges will be filed. However, if the prosecutor decides not to file charges, then this means it's his judgment that there isn't enough evidence that a crime took place. Your only other recourse is to appeal to the state attorney general, but that is unlikely to be successful. You can't file criminal charges on your own.

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