How to Withdraw a Criminal Complaint

Updated February 21, 2017

Withdrawing a criminal complaint is fairly easy when you have standing to do so. For crimes such as shoplifting, general theft and vandalism, you have the right to withdraw your complaint and it will likely stop the case from progressing, though the state has the right to move forward. For crimes such as rape, assault and other violent acts, it's very likely the case will move forward because of the seriousness of the crime and the need to protect additional potential victims.

Go to the police department where you filed the complaint. This is the first step in removing your complaint.

Ask to know what court is handling your case. Although you'll have to file your paperwork with the court, some police departments can provide you with the paperwork that needs to be filled out.

File the appropriate paperwork with the court handling your case. Every state has a different process for how to withdraw a criminal complaint. Withdrawing the complaint doesn't eliminate it; rather, an additional piece of paper is filed stating you've changed your mind.

File any additional paperwork sent to you by the district attorney's office. The DA will likely want to know why you're choosing to drop the case and will ask to speak with you.


File your withdrawal as soon as possible. The more resources used to investigate the claim, the less likely a district attorney is to drop the case.


If the case proceeds, you may still be asked to testify. While a district attorney can compel you testify, the defence can help you frame your answers in the best possible light. Consider why you want to remove the complaint. If it was worth the time to file it, you might want to rethink why you're attempting to stop it. Let the district attorney know if you're withdrawing your complaint because you're being threatened in any way.

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About the Author

Pharaba Witt has worked as a writer in Los Angeles for more than 10 years. She has written for websites such as USA Today, Red Beacon, LIVESTRONG, WiseGeek, Web Series Network, Nursing Daily and major film studios. When not traveling she enjoys outdoor activities such as backpacking, snowboarding, ice climbing and scuba diving. She is constantly researching equipment and seeking new challenges.