What Happens When Someone Presses Charges Against You in NJ?

You have probably heard on TV or in movies about people pressing criminal charges. While people can press charges, they cannot formally charge someone with a criminal offense.

If someone presses charges against you, it likely means they have filed a criminal complaint. The first thing you should do is call an attorney, explain the situation, and they should advise you on what steps you should take. Both the police and individuals can press charges, but this does not mean formal criminal charges have been filed in court. If someone presses charges against you, it is not guaranteed that formal charges will even be filed. While individuals and the police can file criminal complaints, and those complaints might lead to formal charges, only prosecutors can decide whether to file criminal charges against you formally.

If someone has told you they plan on pressing charges, call our NJ criminal defense attorneys for help. Even if you know you have done nothing wrong, any threats to press charges should be taken seriously. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 for a free case evaluation.

What to Do if Someone Presses Charges Against You in NJ

Contact an attorney immediately if someone says they want to press charges against you. While people often say that they will press charges, in many cases, this is more of a petty threat than a genuine allegation. Even if you know you did nothing to warrant criminal charges, you should take these kinds of claims seriously, as they could lead to legal trouble. Our NJ criminal defense attorneys can help you assess the situation and prepare for a potential legal battle.

First, you should assess the situation and gather evidence that tends to show that criminal charges are unnecessary. Often, people who want to file charges against someone else do not fully understand the law and do not realize that there is no crime to file charges over. Sometimes, simply having someone who knows the law can help you defeat the charges before they become a problem. Your attorney can also help you talk to potential witnesses who can back you up if the police investigate the alleged incident.

Your lawyer should prepare you for a possible interaction with law enforcement. You must know your rights. You do not have to speak with the police or answer questions if you are not in custody. If you are in custody, you have the right to remain silent and have a lawyer by your side. Avoid talking to the police without a lawyer so you do not accidentally incriminate yourself.

Who Can Press Charges Against Someone in NJ?

People often threaten to press charges in movies, but the reality is a bit more complicated. While people can press charges, this does not mean that formal charges will be filed against you or that you will even be arrested. In most cases, it is the police who press charges. Our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers can help you defend yourself against bogus charges.

The Police

In most cases, the police are the ones pressing charges in New Jersey. People often mistakenly believe that pressing charges involves a criminal investigation, arrests, and a court date. In reality, pressing charges refers to filing a criminal complaint.

Many criminal complaints originate with the police and might result from a proper investigation. Usually, the complaint has some evidence to back it up, and the police often avoid filing criminal complaints unless there is sufficient probable cause to arrest the suspect. Charges related to more serious offenses, like violent crimes, tend to originate from a complaint filed by the police.


Individuals can also press charges, meaning people can submit criminal complaints and make formal accusations against others. This is often more common for lesser offenses, like trespassing or disputes between neighbors. The police might investigate after someone presses charges, but formal criminal charges are not guaranteed to stick.

If the charges against you originated from a complaint from an individual, it might be easier to challenge. People often file criminal complaints out of anger or spite rather than real criminal activity. However, concerned citizens sometimes file complaints about very real criminal actions, so every allegation should be taken very seriously by you and your attorney.

If Someone Presses Charges Against Me in NJ, Will I Have a Trial?

If someone submits a criminal complaint about you, you might feel scared or uneasy about what happens next. The truth is that you might face a formal criminal trial, or you might face absolutely nothing. Even so, it is best not to risk it alone and call our Cape May criminal defense lawyers to discuss your situation.

When people file criminal complaints, they might do so without evidence to back up their claims. Without any evidence of a crime, there can be no criminal charges. In addition, many complaints filed by individuals are bogus and only intended to spite someone else.

This does not mean you should not still act to protect yourself. Criminal complaints are taken seriously by the police, and even a bogus complaint might be investigated. Contact an attorney to discuss the situation and determine how to protect yourself if the case escalates.

The Difference Between Pressing Charges and Formally Filing Charges in NJ

Pressing charges is not the same thing as filing formal charges. While the police and individuals can press charges by submitting formal criminal complaints, only prosecutors can file formal criminal charges and kick off legal proceedings against a defendant. Our Glouchester criminal defense lawyers can help you if you face formal criminal charges after someone files a criminal complaint against you.

Only prosecutors can file formal charges. While the criminal complaint against you might come to the attention of prosecutors, they might decide not to file formal charges, and you might not have to deal with a trial. Alternatively, they might decide to file charges, but they might not necessarily be the ones described in the initial complaint. Remember, prosecutors have a lot of discretion.

Prosecutors may consult the police and individuals, but only they have the final say. Prosecutors are usually looking for some hard evidence of a crime before they decide to file charges. Prosecutors will not waste their time with formal charges if there is no solid evidence that you committed a crime.

Call Our NJ Criminal Defense Lawyers for Help Today

If you believe someone wants to press charges against you, talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. Our Haddonfield criminal defense lawyers are prepared to help you in any way we can. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 for a free case evaluation.

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