Suspect to Defendant: Facing Criminal Charges

To be "charged" with a crime means to be formally accused of that crime. Police officers usually start the charging process with an arrest or citation. They then send copies of their reports to a prosecutor’s office staffed by government lawyers whose job it is to initiate and prosecute criminal cases. The prosecutor is supposed to either:

  • make an independent decision as to what charges should be filed, or
  • enlist the help of citizens serving as grand jurors in deciding what charges to file.

Learn about how criminal charges are chosen and filed.