How to file criminal charges when you are being assaulted

Written by melanie jo triebel
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How to file criminal charges when you are being assaulted
Filing criminal charges may mean that the case proceeds to a trial (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

If you have been assaulted or are being assaulted, deciding how to proceed can feel overwhelming. The prospect of pressing charges against the offender can be daunting, but will provide the best chance for the offender to be punished. Pressing charges can also help to ensure that the perpetrator does not assault you or others in the future. Although the decision to move forward can be stressful, the process itself is relatively straightforward, and the police and prosecutor can help you to proceed.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Information about the assault

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  1. 1

    Call the police. If you report the assault to the police, there will be a record of the assault, even if the police do not or cannot investigate. (Reference 3)

  2. 2

    Contact the court, or the local prosecutor, if necessary. In many cases, the police will file criminal charges as a result of your complaint. The police station will be able to tell you whether they have decided to proceed. If they do not, you must take action on your own. Depending on the jurisdiction, this process may go through either the prosecutor or the court itself. The police, or your local prosecutor's office, will be able to direct you to the correct place to seek prosecution of the assault. (Reference 3)

  3. 3

    Provide information to the prosecutor. The prosecutor or state's attorney will want to speak to you about what you experienced. She will also want the names and contact information of any witnesses, if available. (Reference 2)

  4. 4

    Consider hiring an attorney. In the criminal case, the prosecutor, who represents the people, will effectively be your attorney. (Reference 2) But hiring your own counsel can make you feel more comfortable with the process, and help you to decide whether to pursue a civil case, as well.

  5. 5

    Be prepared to testify. Your testimony is an important part of convicting the offender. In some cases, such as second and subsequent spousal abuse cases, you can even be compelled to testify against your will. (Reference 2, 3)

Tips and warnings

  • Many people are confused about the meaning of "assault." Assault is conduct that reasonably leads you to believe that you are in danger. If, however, the person assaulting you advances to physical contact (such as hitting you), then the crime he has committed is battery, or assault and battery. (Reference 1)
  • Restraining orders are another way to protect yourself if you are being assaulted. If you are considering filing for a restraining order, a lawyer or the local court can assist you.
  • Once charges have been filed with the court, it is generally too late to withdraw them. As you may be unable to change your mind, you should be sure that you want to proceed before you press charges. (Reference 3)
  • Laws and procedures vary from state to state. Talk to your attorney, or the local police, to find out if there are any important variations or requirements in your state.

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