After a police officer arrests a person, there can be a period of uncertainty. Many people in New Hampshire and elsewhere may think that an arrest means that a person is immediately charged with a crime and will have to go to court. However, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, other steps often take place between an arrest and someone having charges brought against him or her.
In particular, the prosecutor plays a significant role in determining whether you will face formal criminal charges. After your arrest, the officer or officers involved will make a police report that details what led to the arrest and will send that report to the prosecutor. The prosecutor will then review the report and decide what should happen next in regard to possibly pursuing formal criminal charges.
The prosecutor’s options
In most cases, prosecutors have three options when it comes to deciding whether a person should face criminal charges. Those options include personally filing a complaint with the court to pursue charges, presenting evidence to a grand jury and having the jury decide whether to indict a person on charges, or choosing not to follow through with formal charges. The prosecutor could also decide the specific charge or charges to bring against a person.
What happens after the prosecutor’s decision?
If the prosecutor chooses not to use a grand jury for the decision and you potentially face a felony charge, the prosecutor will have a preliminary hearing before a judge to explain the evidence involved and why the prosecutor believes it is enough to bring about formal charges and go to trial. If the judge believes that the evidence is sufficient, the case will move forward. If the prosecutor chooses to use a grand jury, there is no need to have a preliminary hearing.
What if you face charges?
Whether the prosecutor chooses to seek charges through a preliminary hearing or a grand jury indicts you on charges, you certainly want to handle any formal allegations as well as possible. Fortunately, you have the right to prepare for your case and defend against the charges if you wish to do so. Having reliable information about your options and the proceedings that wait ahead after having charges brought against you may help you feel more in control during this time.