HOW A CASE IS FILED

The prosecution (usually the District Attorney's Office) receives information from citizens, and law enforcement officers, who suspect that a California law has been violated. If a citizen reports a crime an evaluation is made to determine if a crime was in fact committed, and if need be, the citizen is referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency who will investigate the crime. In some cases, when deemed appropriate, the matter is assigned to an investigator within the District Attorney's Office. The officer's written report of the investigation is processed and then given to one of the Attorneys in the office for review. The attorney, representing the People of the State of California, will review the case and determine if in fact a California law has been violated, and/or whether or not the case should;

~ be returned to the submitting officer, or agency, for further investigation,
~ be submitted to an investigator in the District Attorney's Office for further investigation,
~ be returned to the submitting agency with no action taken, or
~ have a criminal complaint filed against an individual, or individuals, for a violation, or violations, of California law.

Misdemeanor Criminal Complaints are filed by the District Attorney, or his Deputies. Complaints are filed in Municipal Court. Misdemeanors are cases where the possible penalty is a year or less in the County Jail, a $1,000.00 fine (except for a few exceptions where the fine is larger), or both by fine and imprisonment. The District Attorney, or his Deputies, represent the People of the State of California in these matters until the case is adjudicated.

If a Felony is charged the complaint is also filed in the Municipal Court. A Judge will then hear the case to determine if there is a sufficient amount of evidence to hold the individual to answer to the charge(s) in Superior Court. If the Municipal Court Judge holds the individual is held to answer to the charge(s) the case proceeds to Superior Court. At that point the District Attorney, or his Deputy, will file an Information (similar to a complaint) against the individual in Superior Court.

Felonies are cases where there is a possible penalty of incarceration in the State Prison, or a fine in excess of $1,000.00, or both by fine and imprisonment. The District Attorney, or his Deputies, represent the People of the State of California in these matters until the case is adjudicated in Superior Court. If an appeal is filed the Attorney General of the State of California represents the People of the State.

Notice that the decision to prosecute is made by the prosecutor, not the police or the crime victim. This is important, in that the police officers investigating a case generally cannot provide leniency or immunity. Similarly, the victim of an offense can not "drop the charges." Even so, there are numerous vehicles available to find relief within the criminal justice system. Only an experienced attorney can help you navigate through the legal system, and to find the best type of relief available to you and to your case.


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You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

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