Ever wonder just how a case gets filed? Let’s say you and a neighbor get into a shouting match and the police are called. You are interviewed by the police, as is the other guy. You are not cited for anything, nor is the other person. 3 months later you receive a letter in the mail informing you that you have a date to appear in court to answer charges of assault and battery stemming from the incident. How did that happen?
Once the police are called to the scene, whether anyone is arrested or not, a police report is taken. At this point the police officer can make a judgment call as to whether to forward the police report on to the District Attorney’s office. If the officer decides that a crime has NOT taken place he will simply file the report and nothing more will come of it.
If the officer determines that, in his opinion, a crime has occurred, her report will be sent to the District Attorney’s office. That report will land on the desk of the filing deputy district attorney and it will be that person’s job to determine whether he or she thinks a crime has been committed and whether there appears to be enough evidence to prove a crime.
Once the reports get to the district attorney’s office there are several things that can happen. One possibility is that the case simply won’t be filed. An experienced criminal defense attorney can sometimes talk a deputy district attorney out of filing the case. This is the best case scenario for a potential defendant. Or, the deputy can send the case back to the police for further investigation. This means the DA wants more information and is going to wait until the information is gathered and the case is resubmitted before making a determination about whether to file. Lastly, the district attorney can look at the police report; decide that there is sufficient evidence a crime has been committed and that there is enough evidence for the district attorney to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. If that is the determination then the case will be filed.
Filing the case means the DA decides what laws have been broken and the defendant is charged with violating one or more specific laws, that will be either misdemeanors or felonies. If an attorney has not been hired yet, any defendant would be well advised to seek out the best criminal defense attorney he can find.