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How Are Criminal Charges Filed?

Every criminal case will start with a police arrest report. It is only then will the prosecutor be able to decide the criminal charges that should be filed. There are cases that will proceed to preliminary hearing when the judge decides that there is enough evidence to necessitate so. A case can also commence when a criminal indictment is issued by a grand jury. In this article, we’re going to highlight some of the processes that are involved with filing a criminal charge.


An indictment that becomes the focus of a criminal case will usually start with an investigation. It can be an enforcement agency or an officer of the law that is spearheading the investigations. Depending on the jurisdiction and severity of the case, it could be the local sheriff, police offer, or even the FBI.

An investigation can start in several circumstances. An officer of the law might have noticed that a car is swerving from its lane. This is in itself a violation but it could only be the start. Investigations can also commence when there are witness reports of a suspected crime. It is the duty of law enforcement to try and get to the bottom of every criminal case. The officer will document all the necessary details so there is reasonable cause for arrest for those that have been matched with the crime.


An arrest will happen when an officer of the law will use legal authority to detain an individual and limit their freedom of movement. Probable cause is at the heart of every arrest. It might be a good idea to start thinking about getting a criminal attorney in Indianapolis if you’ve been charged with a criminal offense. Probable cause will require more than just the element of suspicion in order to make an arrest. For a probable cause to apply, it means there is reasonable evidence or belief that the suspect is guilty.

Judges will be the ones to determine if there is reasonable cause for an arrest and it usually on a case-by-case basis. In order for an officer of the law to make a lawful arrest, the onus is on them to prove that there was probable cause and necessary to make the arrest. There are circumstances where a person that is not a law enforcement officer can make a citizen’s arrest although such cases are very rare as most people will just call the police. Police officers have to be careful when making arrests because a mistake could lead to a lawsuit for wrongful detainment.


A warrant can be defined as a legal document that has been signed by the judge that authorizes a police officer to detain a suspect. A search warrant will give law enforcement the authority to go through specific materials or objects at a defined location.

For there to be an arrest or search warrant, the officer of the law must prove to the judge that there is probable cause.

Charge For a Crime

It is the work of law enforcement to summarize their findings in a criminal case and present the report to prosecutors. The prosecutors will then review the findings and decide the charges to be filed if there are any. The prosecutor will have to describe and develop the charges on a factual basis. The charging documents are usually described as “indictments”, “information”, and “complaints”

If it is a federal prosecution, the prosecutors will be required to present the evidence and the criminal charges in front of a group of impartial citizens usually referred to as the grand jury. The grand jury will listen and analyze the evidence and decide if there is reasonable cause to show that the accused committed the criminal offense. A charging document, also known as indictment will then be issued by the grand jury. It should be noted that the grand jury is only isolated for cases that are being prosecuted by the federal government.


Once the defendants have been arrested, they’ll be required to appear before a court in 48 hours for the initial hearing of the case. It is during the initial hearing that the accused are made aware of their rights and the crimes charged against them.


It is during the discovery stage that prosecutors and defendants get to know about both sides of the case. In the past, prosecutors were not privy to the defendant’s case. In the recent past, the discovery process requires that evidence is being exchanged by both parties.

Plea Bargain

The majority of criminal cases will be solved with a plea bargain. It is a mutual agreement between the prosecutor and defendant to solve the case without having to take it to trial. In most cases, the defendant will plead guilty to the charges or no contest at all. The prosecutor will in turn agree to dismiss or reduce charges for a lighter sentence.

Preliminary Hearing

A defendant that doesn’t plead guilty will be granted a preliminary hearing in most jurisdictions. A Preliminary Hearing can be seen as a mini-trial. The prosecutor will be required to produce solid evidence to convince the judges that there is reasonable cause for the case to go to trial.

Talk To Your Attorney

It is important that you’re reaching out to an attorney if you’ve been charged with a criminal offense. The lawyer will be able to explain the court procedures in detail and make you aware of the options so as to know what to expect going forward.

When you’re selecting an attorney, it is prudent to choose one that has a history of helping clients get the best results out of their criminal case. Plenty of law firms boast a foundation of knowledge and experience which is coupled with the experience of consummate attorneys whose focus is to ensure that clients are getting the best representation possible. Select a law firm that believes in establishing good relationships with clients and will work closely with prosecutors to prevent the charges from being filed (if possible) or reduce the chances of a conviction by opting for a plea bargain.