How to Find Out If Someone Has Pressed Charges Against You

If you think you might be charged with a crime, that suspicion is often enough to cause you a great deal of stress. All too often in TV or movies we hear about people "pressing charges." This makes it sound as if anyone can have you arrested at any time if the person tells the police you did something.

That isn't true. To know whether charges have been "pressed" against you, you'll have to understand how the criminal justice process works.

Learn about the criminal justice process. You need to understand how the state (the police and prosecutors) prosecutes crime. The first step is a police investigation of the matter. A police investigator will talk to witnesses and seek evidence. A witness might come to the police first to make a statement. The police may then make an arrest or present evidence to a prosecutor, who will then decide whether to file a criminal complaint. A witness making a complaint never has the power to "press charges."

If you think someone wants to "press charges" against you, be clear in your mind about what happened. No matter if it was a bar fight, domestic dispute or anything else, you want to be certain about what it is you did or did not do. Don't panic and make things worse. Collect yourself, think and understand the situation.

Talk to an attorney. Whenever you are facing potential criminal liability, you always need an attorney's advice. Don't talk to the police until you've spoken with a lawyer, who will be able to advise you on what you can or cannot do, as well as what you should or shouldn't do next. Make sure your lawyer makes it clear what your rights are under the law.

Ask your lawyer to find out if the state has filed, or is in the process of filing, criminal charges against you.