What Does it Mean When Someone Presses Charges?

Someone presses charges against another person when they call the police and make a complaint regarding criminal activity. Therefore, the victim in the case is the one who is “pressing charges” against the defendant. The police officer will write a police report and investigate the suspect for any potential crime. If the police officer believes a crime has in fact occurred, he will either make an arrest or issue a criminal summons to the alleged defendant. 

Watch this video to learn what it means when someone has pressed charges against you

Why Does the State Pick Up the Charges?

After an arrest or summons is issued, the police officer will forward the reports to the District Attorney’s Office where an attorney will examine the reports, call officers, victims, and witnesses to determine what he can prove.

It is a misconception that the victim presses charges. Technically, it is the prosecutor that presses charges by filing the bill of information or obtaining a grand jury indictment. It is up to the prosecutor whether or not to press charges against a person. All the victim can do is call the police. The victim cannot formally “press charges.” After that, it is strictly up to the prosecutor whether or not to press charges.  The reason for this is because not all claims made by victims are legitimate or supported with evidence. If a prosecutor knows that the victim is full of it, he may not press charges, even if the victim wants to.

On the other hand, the victim may not want to press charges later on, yet the State picks up the case anyway.  This can happen in cases in which the prosecutor deems it necessary to step in and prosecute the defendant due to concern that the defendant could reoffend.

What Happens When You Press Charges on Someone for Domestic Violence

Domestic violence cases are typically where you will see a prosecutor press charges against a defendant when the victim doesn’t want to press charges. The common scenario is when the wife calls the police on the husband and tells the police that he physically assaulted her. The police then arrest the husband. The reports go to the prosecutor who examines the case to make a decision whether or not to file a formal charge (press charges).  The wife may tell the prosecutor that she doesn’t want to pursue the charges. She may recant her story because she doesn’t want him to go to jail since he supports her and the family. He may lose his job which can be devastating to all.

At this point the prosecutor must decide whether or not to press charges for domestic abuse battery. If this couple has had multiple incidences or he has a criminal history of the same conduct, the prosecutor my press the charges even if the victim says she doesn’t want to press charges.

If You Press Charges on Someone Do You Have To Go To Court?

If you press charges against someone, you may have to go to court eventually.  If the defendant decides to fight the case and demand a trial, you could be subpoenaed to testify against the defendant. The prosecutor will ask you questions on the witness stand detailing what happened. Then, the defense attorney will have an opportunity to cross-examine you to bring out any inconsistencies in your testimony, or to see if you are lying.

Can Someone Press Charges Without Proof?

People try to press charges without proof all the time. Police officers may spend more time responding to false complaints than real complaints. The police officer must size up the complaint to determine if there exists probable cause to believe a crime occurred. If he thinks probable cause exists based on the alleged facts presented to him, he will make an arrest. Therefore, there needs to be some proof that the defendant committed the crime. However, it may not be enough to convict him later on in trial. Police officers make mistakes by arresting people when there is not sufficient proof. This happens quite often. That is one reason you need a criminal defense attorney. He may expose the bad police-work after the case starts going to court.

How To Find Out if Criminal Charges Are Filed Against You

If you suspect that someone filed criminal charges against you, you can call the police department where the alleged incident occurred to inquire if they have an active arrest warrant for you. Just be careful. If you get on the phone with an investigator, anything you say can be held against you. They will try to get you to say you did it or they may ask you to come in to give a statement. The investigator will likely be friendly and say you’ll be fine. Beware.

What Happens When Someone Presses Charges Against You For Fighting?

presses charges against you for battery
Has someone pressed charges against you for battery?

If someone presses charges against you for fighting, you may get arrested for battery. It could be a simple battery or a second-degree battery if there is serious bodily injury or unconsciousness occurred. If a dangerous weapon was used, it could be an aggravated battery. Battery is the unconsenual touching of another. It could be as minor as pushing someone to as serious as beating them with a dangerous weapon or shooting them with a gun.

After the police officer arrests the defendant. The judge may set a bail amount. The defendant could post bond or stay in jail pending the resolution of the case. The prosecutor will then determine what he can prove and how to press charges against the defendant. If there is serious bodily injury involved, the prosecutor may need medical records and photographs. He may want to meet with the victim to see what the victim wants to do as well as get the victim’s side of the story.

What Happens When Someone Presses Charges Against You For Assault?

Assault is different than battery since assault does not involve actual touching. An assault occurs when the defendant either attempts to commit a battery but does not or he places the victim in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery. In other words, he makes the victim think he is about to get hit. If someone presses charges against you for assault, the police officer will either arrest you or give you a summons depending on the grade of assault. There misdemeanor and felony grades of assault. He could arrest you for both misdemeanor and felony assault. After the arrest is made, the case goes to the prosecutor who will press charges against you formally based on what he can prove.

If Someone Presses Charges On You How Long Does It Take?

If someone presses charges on you, it can take only hours up to weeks before the police decide to make an arrest. The reason is that all cases are different in complexity. If it is a simple assault or hit and run case, the officer may try to make an arrest immediately. If you press charges for a more complex case such as contractor fraud, it could be months before enough evidence is obtained for the officer to have probable cause to arrest.

What Happens When Someone Presses Charges Against You For Stealing?

If someone presses charges against you for stealing, the police may get an arrest warrant for theft. Depending on the amount of the alleged stolen item, you could be looking at a felony or misdemeanor.  The officer could give you a misdemeanor summons for theft or book you for felony theft. If the alleged stolen amount is $1000 or more, you could go to jail if someone presses charges against you. The case will go to the prosecutor who will round up the necessary paperwork to prove the theft. Video surveillance could also be obtained to prove the theft.

theft charges Louisiana
Has someone pressed charges against you for theft?

What To Do If Someone Presses Charges Against You

If someone presses charges against you, the very first thing you need to do is hire a criminal defense attorney to step in and start advising you. The internet in not the place to get the best legal advice. Articles such as this can only provide general information about general situations. Only an attorney that can get all the circumstances surrounding your case will be able to properly advise you and help you figure out a strategy that will protect you. Be smart…get off the internet. If someone presses charges against you in Louisiana, our criminal defense attorneys can help. Contact us to discuss your matter.


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DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is not formal legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

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