What Occurs if I am Under Investigation for a Crime?
What occurs when I am arrested?
The purpose of this article is to explain in plain English the process that occurs when charges are filed and the process leading up to your arrest for a felony such as Robbery, Arson, Murder, Possession of a Controlled Substance, Delivery of a Controlled Substance, or Assault.
Who investigates the allegations against me?
As you may or may not know, the process leading up to an arrest and ultimately your indictment, begins with the criminal investigation. Generally, detectives from your local police department or other jurisdiction conduct the initial investigation before the charges have been filed. This is often caused by a patrol officer that gathers the initial information from witnesses or complaining witnesses. So, for example, if you are in Kansas City, Missouri, then a KCMO cop would take the reports. The witness statements are taken down and a report is prepared. Often times, a specialized unit may be utilized in order to investigate your case. Their investigation will be very brief and consist of written memoranda, interviews of witnesses, videotapes, and potentially audiotape interviews. Depending on the nature of the accusation, and the detail that the law enforcement agency undertakes, paperwork and products of their investigation may vary a great deal from case to case. As a criminal defense attorney with over 23 years of experience, I can tell you that there are 3 truths to the investigation. There is what actually happened. There is what the report states what happened. And, last there is what the witness believes happened. Often, they are three different things completely. That is why you need an experienced attorney to defend your rights.
What are the police reports used for and who decides what charges are filed?
Once the law enforcement agency has completed its investigation, they send a packet of materials gathered in the course of their investigation to the Assistant Prosecuting Attorney. The Prosecuting Attorney then reviews the materials and determines whether or not charges should be filed. Often times, if retained early enough in a case, we are able to provide additional materials to the Assistant Prosecuting Attorney so they may consider the strengths or weaknesses of their case.
Once the prosecutor has reviewed the materials submitted by law enforcement and potentially our office if you have retained us to dissuade the prosecutor from filing charges, he or she will then determine what charges will be filed and when to file them. Generally, the statute of limitations for a criminal case is three years. There are several exceptions to this general rule. These would include murder cases, which do not have a statute of limitations, and some sex cases, which can be filed well after the three-year general statute of limitations. For purposes of this letter, you should assume that the prosecutor’s office will file charges within the three-year period of time that is generally applicable. If for some reason, the charges were not filed within the three-year period of time (generally that is the statute of limitations, but not always), your charges could be dismissed as the statute of limitations governs how long the prosecutor’s office has to file a charge
Once the charges are filed, they are submitted to the Associate Circuit Court for the relevant jurisdiction.