What can I accomplish through criminal court?
Another way to address technology misuse is through the criminal court system. In the criminal law system, cases are filed by the state prosecutor (also called the district attorney or attorney general in some states) based on violations of state criminal law. (Or if a federal law is violated, the federal prosecutor would be the one to file the case.) Generally, when you call 911 or go to the police department to file a criminal complaint, the police will do an investigation and if there is “probable cause” to make an arrest and sufficient evidence to prosecute, the abuser may be charged with a crime. To see a list of some common crimes in your state, especially those that involve technology misuse, go to our Crimes page and enter your state in the drop-down menu.
One important difference between a civil and criminal case is that in a criminal case, the prosecutor is the one who decides whether or not to file the criminal case against the abuser and whether or not to withdraw the criminal charges. Once a criminal case has been filed, if you later decide that you do not want the case to continue (you want to “drop the charges”), the prosecutor does not have to drop the case (since the prosecutor is not “your attorney”). It is up to the prosecutor whether to continue the case or not. You do not necessarily have the same ability to start or dismiss a case in criminal court the way you may be able to in civil court.