If you are a victim of crime and the offender is arrested, your participation may be critical in the prosecution’s case against the suspect. Without this commitment, there may not be enough evidence to move forward with charges.
When the police respond to a crime, they will provide the victim with a “Victim/Complainant Information Form” that explains when and who to contact to follow up after a suspect is arrested or questioned. This information includes how to follow up when the suspect is a juvenile. When an adult suspect is arrested and taken to jail, the arraignment is typically scheduled on 1pm the day following the arrest. The District Attorney’s office (DA) needs the victim to confirm that he or she plans to press charges against the suspect by 11am on the day of the arraignment. Without this communication, the case may result in a “no complaint”. If the suspect is arrested and cited, but not taken to jail, then the victim needs to confirm with the DAs office no later than five days prior to the court date that he or she will press charges (but wait for a week after the date of the issuance of the citation to call the DA’s Office to give them enough time to process the citation). If the individual isn’t arrested or cited, the form will state how to follow up; there may not be enough evidence to charge the suspect with a crime at this time. In felony prosecutions, the victim may receive a call from the DA’s office asking whether they wish to press charges or from the police if further information is necessary for the case; often times felony cases are scheduled for presentment to a Grand Jury and victims or witnesses are notified by phone or issued a subpoena in person or by U.S. Mail. If it’s a misdemeanor, then the victim most likely will need to follow up. One way or the other, it’s always a good plan to contact the DA’s office before the deadline.
If the victim misses the deadline as outlined on the complainant form, the victim can still follow up with the DA’s office to express their intent to press charges as long as it’s within the statute of limitations for prosecuting that particular crime. At that point the DA’s office will review the case to determine if there is enough evidence to move forward. The criminal justice system works best if the victim follows up immediately after the arrest. If the suspect is still in jail, he or she can be brought to court for the arraignment, which ensures that the case can swiftly move forward.
There can be delays and other hassles involved in dealing with a trial. Some victims may not feel up to the challenge and may not have a lot of flexibility in their day. However, there have been examples where there was a strong case against a suspect, yet the victim did not follow through. In some incidents, that may be the lone arrest for a prolific offender. This is a problem not only for the case, but also the community.