Can I call a Lawyer to Press Charges?
As a criminal defense law firm, we often receive inquiries from prospective clients about “pressing charges” against other individuals who have harmed them. While we sympathize with these clients and will do what we can to point them in the right direction or help them in whatever ways we can, we do not have the authority to press criminal charges against individuals. Even police officers do not “press charges”, the only authority who can are municipal, state, or federal prosecution attorneys.
Now, if you were under the false impression that you can press charges by calling a private lawyer, there’s no need to feel embarrassed. It’s a common misconception that has been propped up by a lot of what we see and hear from TV and movies. However, even if a private attorney will not be able to formally press criminal charges against a person who harmed you, reaching out to an attorney for guidance is still a good call to make. A private attorney could both help guide you on how to handle presenting evidence to the authorities so they would feel obligated to press charges, or your attorney could help pursue civil action against the person who harmed you.
How do you get Charges Filed?
So what control do we as individuals have to get charges filed against somebody? The best way is to provide evidence to the authorities in a timely manner and cooperate with the government if and when they decide to pursue charges and possibly make use of your testimony. Generally, prosecutors do not want to waste their time trying cases where evidence is minimal or the only witnesses available are not very cooperative or offer poor testimonies.
That being said, just as you cannot press charges as an individual, you do not have the authority to retract charges against somebody. So, if you were the victim of a crime but no longer wish for the alleged perpetrator to face charges, all you can do is ask the prosecutor to drop charges, but they have the ultimate say in whether they will continue to pursue the charges or not.
If I can't File Charges, what else can I do to Protect Myself?
Especially in cases of violent crime, it can be frightening to know that reporting to the authorities does not automatically mean the person you alleged harmed you will face criminal consequences. Especially in cases like sexual assault and domestic violence, we often see how this inhibits victims from reporting what happened to them out of fear they will be targeted with violence again. While you do not have control over the criminal process, there are other avenues to both protect yourself and pursue compensation for how you were harmed.
For example, in cases of domestic violence and abuse, filing a restraining order does not require that the accused is currently facing charges for the alleged crime. Many other crimes that involve harming or damaging a person, such as revenge porn, can be pursued in civil courts as well, where the accused could face serious financial and social consequences.
If you wish to file a civil case against somebody or need assistance with a domestic violence protective order, reaching out to an experienced attorney can help alleviate a great deal of anxiety involved and make sure you get the best results possible. If you would like to speak to an attorney about any such case, feel free to request a consultation from us below.