In most cases, when someone is injured or when a crime is committed against an individual or business, the victim calls the police, an investigation takes place, and the police, prosecutor, and or district attorney must determine if there is sufficient reason to swear out a criminal complaint against the perpetrator. In some cases, however, a victim may choose to file a criminal complaint individually against a suspect. In such cases, the victim becomes the affiant and acts just as the state does in a standard criminal case.
Steps in Filing a Criminal Complaint
In order for an individual or business to file a criminal complaint against a suspect, the victim must take steps that are similar to those taken when the police file criminal charges:
- The victim must fill out a legal complaint form and file it with the court system, as required in the appropriate state statutes
- The victim must prove that there is reasonable cause to file a criminal complaint against another person
- In most states, the complaint will be forwarded to the district attorney’s office, where the complaint will be approved or disapproved. There is usually an investigation, determining if there is sufficient evidence of a crime to file criminal charges
- If criminal charges are filed, the victim must then be prepared to appear in court, if required, to testify against the perpetrator
Help from a Criminal Defense Attorney
Regardless of whether there is a criminal case or not, a victim generally should have a criminal attorney at their side to help them pursue their civil suit. Legally, such a case can be handled by the victim, without counsel; however, that is generally not a wise choice. Statistics show that those with attorneys are much more successful in winning their civil lawsuits and in obtaining higher compensation and damage awards with the help of a knowledgeable attorney. However, that doesn’t always mean a case must end up in court. With a strong case in the hands of a victim and their attorney, they will often attempt to negotiate a settlement out of court. The stronger the case, the more likely it will be that the defendant and their attorney will be willing to reach such a settlement and award the plaintiff a large amount of compensation.