What Does it Mean to Press Charges?

What Does it Mean to Press Charges?

The term “Press Charge” means officially accusing someone to the extent that such acquisition is decided in a court of law. So, the press charge involves legal action against someone or officially accusing someone of a crime. 

In legal terms, “press charge” means to file a criminal complaint against someone believed to have committed a crime. The charges are to allege someone committing crimes like assault, damaging property, giving bribes, etc. 

What is a press charge?

Press charge is an essential aspect of bringing justice to a victim of a crime. The term pressing charge means prosecuting a criminal charge against a person who suspects a crime. The accusation must be against the offending party, which needs to get sorted in court, and should be for the commission of the crime with sufficient evidence to prove the offense. 

One must file a police report about the crime so committed to press a charge against someone. It enables the prosecutor to press charges against the suspect, and the report will provide key testimony for the case. 

The person reporting the crime is not responsible to pay for the prosecution of the case. Also, no financial benefit can be received from the criminal case. However, one might receive monetary compensation as a part of a plea bargain. It may happen when the charges are for crimes with less severe punishments. 

Who can press charge?

The victim of the crime cannot formally press charges against someone, and the victim can only give his statement to the police. One can also provide evidence collected by him at this time. However, the accused may not get arrested right away. If the police witness the crime, the police can formally arrest the person. If this does not happen, there is no such cause for being arrested. 

The law enforcement officers are required to collect evidence. The evidence is collected to give to the prosecutor before framing the charges upon the individual. The victim can support the police by providing evidence or testimony. Sometimes, the willingness to participate in the process leads people to believe they are themself framing charges. The pressing of charge starts from the filing of the police report. However, the prosecutor is the one who formally frames charges.  

How are the charges determined?

The amount of evidence provided by the victim and the police to the prosecutor determines the charges. The prosecutor initially reviews the evidence, the complaint, and the reports of the police against the alleged crime. Then, the prosecutor reviews the strength of the case and also sees whether prosecuting would be a good use of public resources or not. There are different crime categories based on the evidence provided. The prosecutor thus, determines which kind of crime was committed and how to prove such crime beyond a reasonable doubt. 

How to Press Charges on someone? 

The victim of the crime must make a formal record of the incident with the nearest or the closest police station. The victim can directly go to the police station or can call and report the offense. 

If the offender is available at the site of the crime, the person can get arrested immediately. Such an arrest can only happen if there is probable cause. The evidence for the probable cause is: 

  • Eyewitness testimony of the witness of the scene 
  • Victim’s testimony 
  • Physical evidence recovered from the scene of the crime 
  • Physical injury to the victim
  • Video or Photograph of the incident 
  • The statement made by the accused 

Filing the police report permits opening an investigation into the case, which leads to filing a charging document or criminal complaint in court. 

Time taken to Press Charge 

The victim of the crime cannot force the prosecutor to frame charges against the accused, and the cooperation of the victim encourages the charges that can get pressed against the accused. However, the prosecutor looks into the evidence, and the charges are pressed if the victim’s case is strong enough to stand up to a trial. When the prosecutor is sure to move with the case, the prosecutor may present the charges to a judge or the grand jury to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with the trial. 

Cooperating with the prosecution 

A prosecutor can press the charge against an offender without the victim’s cooperation. The reason behind this is that the victims fear of the charges’ consequences of pressing the charge. It generally happens in cases related to domestic abuse or assault case. However, the prosecutor can move forward even when the victim is afraid this might take more time than usual to frame the charges. At times legal documents like subpoenas are issued, and at others, the bench warrant is required to make the victim appear in the court. Thus, co-operating is considered the best way to press the charges quickly. 

What happens if the prosecutor refuses to press the charge? 

When the prosecutor believes that there is not enough evidence to put forward a case or wants to focus on the resources, the prosecutor may decide not to press the charge. Per the rule, the prosecutor cannot be forced to press charges. However, the decision of not pressing the charge is not necessarily final. 

The prosecutor might review his decision if public or political pressure is placed upon the prosecutor. The prosecutor can also put his decision in front of the grand jury. It may happen at any time before the expiration of the limitation period for the charges and after the decision, the not pressing of charges is made. Once the limitation period lapses, the defendant can file a motion to dismiss the case, and judges must accept the motion. 

How does the person know if the charges are framed against him? 

The police are not legally required to inform you, at the time of arrest, of what charges you are getting arrested for until a hearing known as an arraignment. At the arraignment, you will be informed of the charges against you and will be asked if you plead guilty or not guilty. 

You may know about the charges against you before the arrest. It is because the police reports are public documents that vest the right upon the person to go through the reports of the police regarding the charges pressed against you. 

In case you are not arrested, you may contact the local criminal court to ask f there is any date of hearing, bench warrants, or pending cases filed against you. The sooner you find out the charges against you, the sooner you will be able to contact the investigations lawyer to improve your hand at the trial. 


The phrase to press charge means that a victim of a criminal action reports the action of the police. Filing a police report to the district attorney or local prosecutor can then prosecute a case, and it causes criminal charges to be brought by the prosecutor against the accused. 

The criminal charges may lead an accused to get arrested. The accused can even be asked to arrange a plea bargain with the prosecutor, stand a trial for the crime, or potentially face jail or other penalties. Pressing charges is different than suing in the civil courts. 


What do you mean by pressing charges?

Pressing Charges means reporting a criminal action against a person, and the charge is framed only after the police submit the report.

Who presses the charges against the accused?

The prosecutor frames the charges, not the victim.

Is pressing charges different from a civil suit?

Yes, the pressing of the charges is different from the Civil Suit. in pressing charges, the person accusing another will not receive the monetary benefit.

What determines the charges?

The charge is determined by the evidence provided by the victim, the complaint, and the police report.