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Criminal Charges for Domestic Violence and Stalking

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In addition to getting protective orders, you can also ask the police to charge your abuser or stalker with one or more crimes.

If the police have good cause to believe that you have been abused within the past twelve hours or that a protective order has been violated, they can immediately arrest the abuser and file criminal charges against him/her. If it has been more than twelve hours, the police must get a warrant to arrest the abuser.

In any case, if you have been abused, you can go to the police and file a criminal complaint against your attacker. Call your local police department to get a complaint form.

In the complaint form, write down what happened to you and the law that you believe was broken. Once the form is filled out, you must swear to it before a Justice of the Peace. Once the complaint is filed with the police, your abuser may be arrested.

If your abuser is arrested, keep in mind that most people are released from jail soon after their arrest. So, don’t expect the abuser to stay in jail until the trial. If you fear the abuser might come after you when released, you can ask for a criminal bail protective order that orders that the abuser stay away from you. In many cases, the court will issue this without your request. If the criminal bail protective order is broken (the abuser does not stay away from you), contact the police. They may be able to send the abuser back to jail.

Once a criminal complaint has been filed by you or the police, the police or prosecutor will bring the charges against the abuser.It is no longer your complaint and you cannot withdraw it. You may be subpoenaed to testify.

In order to prosecute the abuser, you may have to testify under oath in open court about what happened during the abuse incident in your complaint. If you have been threatened or abused at other times by this individual, it is very important to be sure to tell the police or the prosecutor about those incidents before trial.


If English is your second language or you don’t speak any English, you have a right to request an interpreter to assist you with the police and in any court proceedings. Make sure to let the police and/or the court know that you need an interpreter to help you.

March 16, 2017

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