What is a criminal complaint? What happens when I file one?
If you feel that a crime has been committed against you, one option you have is to file a criminal complaint. You can file a complaint against an adult or a juvenile. You will fill out an affidavit (sworn statement) telling what happened to you. The affidavit will be reviewed by the county attorney's office, and a decision will be made regarding what charges, if any, will be brought against the defendant. It is also possible that instead of criminal charges being brought against the defendant, your case may be referred for mediation, which means it would be handled outside of the criminal justice system.1 If mediation is not successful, however, your complaint may again be considered for criminal prosecution or your complaint may be forwarded to the district court judge's office where a judge will review the complaint. The judge can issue one of the following:
- Criminal summons - an order that the defendant appear in district court. This is a notice and not an arrest. The summons will advise the defendant to appear in court for the arraignment.
- Arrest warrant - the defendant will be arrested, taken to jail, and later arraigned in district court.1
The issuance of either the summons or warrant does not guarantee an immediate court appearance, an arrest, or that once arrested a defendant will stay in jail. Your complaint is then forwarded to the Sheriff's Department in the county where the defendant lives for service of the arrest warrant or summons.1
1 See, for example, Fayette County Domestic Violence Resource Guide