How Prosecutors Initiate Cases For Criminal Charges

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A criminal cases starts with a police arrest report, though many people assume the process jumps from there into the trial. Between the filing of an arrest report and the probability of entering a trial, a criminal case evolves.

How criminal cases start

As mentioned by Nolo.com‘s reference about criminal cases, police arrest reports are usually the first step of a criminal case.

VERRAZANO NARROWS BRIDGEFrom that point, a prosecutor determines the criminal charges to file, if there are any criminal charges presented. After that, the case is eligible for a criminal indictment before a grand jury; it’s also eligible for a preliminary hearing upon a judge, where they decide whether the case has enough supporting evidence to evolve into a trial.

In this short article, we’re going to look at how prosecutors review arrest reports before filing any possible criminal charges.

The arrest report and possible charges

Arrest reports go to prosecutors after an arrest occurs. Prosecutors initiate and prosecute (pursue, in other words) criminal cases. A prosecutor has the ability to file charges on all crimes where police arrested a suspect.

The arrest report itself is a summary of events leading to the arrest; it provides details like dates, locations, times and weather conditions during the crime. It also features witnesses names and addresses if included in the report.

After reviewing the report, prosecutors may decide to charge a case, depending on its circumstances, and file a complaint with a trial court. They also have the option of charging the case as a felony, bringing evidence to a grand jury to decide if there are any grounds to file charges. In some cases, a prosecutor may decide not to pursue the case.

Prosecutors decide to file charges based on several factors; some of those factors may be influenced by facts not included within the actual arrest report. Those factors may include policies on crimes in their jurisdiction, political ambition or their own interpretation of justice.

When prosecutors file charges for a criminal case

Prosecutors are required by law to file charges within 72 hours of the suspect’s arrest. Some jurisdictions require them to file in as little as 48 hours, depending on the suspect’s state of arrest. They usually file during the time where the suspect remains within police custody.

The initial charges filed by a prosecutor may change. Some usually don’t make a final decision on their charges until they reach a preliminary hearing weeks after the suspect’s arrest.

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