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is a criminal "complaint"?
An arrest, by itself, doesn’t begin
formal criminal proceedings. Rather, the filing of a document in court is
required. In most instances in state court, the document of choice is a “complaint.”
Complaints can be either civil or
criminal. Civil complaints initiate lawsuits, typically between private parties
or a private party and the government. Criminal complaints, on the other hand, almost
always involve the government alone. (Some states technically allow citizens to
file criminal complaints, but the practice is quite rare.)
A state prosecution usually begins
after a police officer arrests someone and presents the case to the
prosecution. The latter then files a complaint, which charges the defendant with
the relevant crime(s). So begins the legal process.
A complaint typically lists: the defendant, the date of the alleged offenses, the alleged offenses (including the relevant statutes,
and whether the violations are misdemeanors or felonies), and some kind of description of the alleged facts underlying
Here is an example
of a criminal complaint.
by: Micah Schwartzbach
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