Criminal Allegations vs Criminal Charges Explained
If someone has accused you of committing a crime, which is called a criminal allegation, there is a process that law enforcement officials will go through to determine if the accusations are credible and criminal charges should be filed.
If a criminal allegation has been made against you, the next step in the legal process is for a law enforcement agency to analyze and investigate the allegations to see if they have merit. This process is called the pre-filing investigation. It can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks or months, depending on the severity of the accusations and the amount of evidence available.
During this time, the police will likely question you and any witnesses that may be able to confirm or refute the allegations. The police may even get a warrant to search your home, car, or place of business if necessary.
Recommendation To The Prosecutor
Once the police or federal law enforcement officials have completed their investigation, they will send the evidence they’ve gathered to the district attorney’s office. The district attorney will review the evidence and make the final decision about whether or not to proceed with the case and file criminal charges against you.
After the district attorney reviews the evidence, one of three outcomes is possible:
- Criminal charges will be filed against you
- The district attorney will decide to end the investigation with no charges
- The district attorney will request law enforcement to conduct further investigation and then return the matter to them for their review and decision
The amount of time that a prosecutor has to act on your case depends on the type and severity of the crime. For most misdemeanor crimes, the prosecution must file charges within one year from the date the offense was allegedly committed. If the crime is a felony, the prosecution generally has three years to file charges from the date the offense was allegedly committed.
Protecting Yourself With An Attorney
It is critical that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as you are aware that you have been accused of a crime. An experienced attorney will protect and shield you from unlawful questioning, searches, and invasions of your privacy during the pre-filing investigation.
In many cases, your lawyer can help expedite the process and have charges dismissed or reduced before they are officially filed.
At Quinnan Law, we have a long track record of successfully defending clients from bogus charges and unlawful searches. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, please contact us today.
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