You may have heard the term “pressing charges” on television dramas or even the nightly news – but what does it actually mean? It is critical to be aware of the process of pressing charges, so you can protect yourself and your rights.
How does someone press charges?
A night at the bar can quickly become rowdy, and one person throwing a punch could lead to someone claiming assault. Of course, the details will differ from case to case, but these situations involving accusations of assault often include the following basic steps:
- The individual who claims to be the victim reporting the assault to the police
- The police investigating, collecting evidence and witness reports
- Prosecutors reviewing the police report and determining whether to file charges
It is important to note that individuals reporting offenses to North Carolina police does not constitute “pressing charges,” even if that is what they threaten they will do. Only prosecutors or district attorneys actually press – or file – criminal charges against someone.
There are other issues to be aware of too
The steps listed above make up the most common process in which someone might find themselves facing assault charges. However, there are a few risks to be aware of in these situations, including:
- A report is not always necessary: It is not always necessary for someone to file a report or even cooperate with the police, for you to face the risk of criminal charges. Police could still investigate an incident and file a report of their own, leading prosecutors to file charges.
- There are chances of a lawsuit: Even if prosecutors decide not to file criminal charges in an assault case, the individual who claims to be the victim could still move forward with a civil lawsuit for injuries or other damages. This does not qualify as double jeopardy, even if the cases relate to the same event.
No matter the situation, it is important to take steps to defend your rights. The moment you could face the risk of criminal charges, you should act quickly to protect yourself at every step of this process.