Anytime a person believes a crime has been committed against them, they have the ability to go to the police to report the incident. However, this does not necessarily mean that a person is “pressing charges” against another individual. Unlike what we see in TV shows and movies, individuals do not necessarily press charges; they report crimes. It is up to law enforcement officials and prosecutors to file charges against individuals. Here, we want to discuss the process that occurs after a crime has been reported.
Citizens Cannot Arrest You or Charge You
“I’m pressing charges against them,” says the person who thinks another individual stole from them.
While this may sound dramatic and actionable, the reality is that individuals who are victims of crimes are not the ones responsible for pressing charges. Yes, individuals do report crimes to the police. The police will investigate and maybe make an arrest. Together with prosecutors, it will be decided whether or not to press charges and pursue the case. Unless a police officer observes a crime, they have to gather evidence and other information in order to recommend that the prosecutors bring charges against the individual alleged to have committed the crime.
The victim of an alleged crime will not be the one to press charges, but their willingness to testify and cooperate with law enforcement officials and prosecutors will typically be a crucial point in the case against the defendant.
Charges Brought by the Police and Prosecutors
When a crime victim contacts the police, the police will usually go to where they are or the scene of the incident to meet with them and ask for more information. If the alleged offender is at the scene of the incident, or if the offense has just happened, law enforcement officials may detain this individual, but only because they have probable cause to do so. This does not mean that they know a crime has been committed. This simply means that they suspect a crime may have been committed, and they are arresting the individual based on that limited information.
If the offender is not at the scene of the incident, the police typically have to get an arrest warrant issued by a judge before they can take that person into custody. An arrest warrant will not be issued until after the police gather the evidence and determine that probable cause exists.
After a person has been arrested, prosecutors will review the police report and the evidence and work to determine whether or not they will proceed forward with charges. Using the evidence available to them, the prosecutor has to determine whether or not they would likely prevail in a trial. In order to win at trial, prosecutors need more than just probable cause. They have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime has been committed.
Even though the victim of the crime will have a role in the case, they will not be the “end all be all” of the situation. Even if a crime victim gets on the stand and thoroughly explains the crime that was allegedly committed, if there is no evidence to back up these statements, it is unlikely that a person will be found guilty. Individuals can say anything they want about anyone else, but that does not necessarily make it true.
If you or somebody you love has been charged with a crime, you need to speak to a criminal defense attorney in Pennsylvania as soon as possible. A lawyer will work diligently to fully investigate the charges against you and begin formulating a solid defense on your behalf.