So, you just received the news from your attorney that your case has been “no-complainted.” While you may understand the basic gist – that no charges have been filed against you and your case is not moving forward at this time – you might still have some questions about what a “no-complaint” really means. The RDF Client guide is happy to shed some light on this process.
A criminal complaint
A criminal complaint is an official document that charges a person (the defendant) with a crime. An easy way to remember this, and as the name implies, this means that the State has filed with the court a “complaint” about someone who allegedly committed a crime. An “information” is another term sometimes used to refer to a charging document.
Typically in criminal cases, the police first arrest the defendant and then file a report to the local prosecutor or District Attorney. Then, the prosecutor decides whether to formally process charges against the defendant by filing a complaint with the court. The prosecutor’s decision to charge the defendant with the crime is based on whether there is enough evidence.
Time to file a complaint
The criminal complaint must be filed on or before the arraignment date. If by the time of the arraignment no charging document has been filed with the court, this means that the prosecutor is not proceeding with charges against you and your case has been dropped right now. “Right now” being the key words to remember.
Every state has a “statute of limitations” for alleged crimes. Statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum amount of time that the prosecutor has to initiate legal proceedings against you, from the date of an alleged offense. The length of time the statute allows for varies and depends on the nature of the offense. This is something that your attorney will go over with you. So, while the prosecutor has decided not to pursue charges against you at this time, that doesn’t mean they can never bring them up later.
Reasons for a no-complaint
There are a few different reasons that a case could be a no-complaint.
The most common reason is that the prosecutor is taking more time to investigate the charges against you. For example, if your case involved a blood draw or urinalysis the prosecutor could be waiting to receive the results of the test before moving forward with formal charges;
Sometimes the reason for a no-complaint case is because your matter is simply lost in the shuffle on someone’s desk, or the prosecutor could have concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to press charges against you and has decided to never proceed with the case.
Understanding why your case was a no-complaint is something you will want to talk to your attorney about. Based on the facts of your case and their experience within a particular jurisdiction, your attorney will typically have a good idea of why charges are not being filed against you right now.
Do not “poke the bear”
Please remember that you should never reach out the prosecutor, personally, to ask about your case. The prosecutor’s job is resolving crimes. They have a difficult job, and they mean well, but they do not have your best interests in mind. Remember, that the prosecutor and the District Attorney represent the State. In their eyes, you committed a criminal offense against the State. Anything you say could be used against you. Further, if your case just so happens to be lost in the shuffle somewhere, it’s never a good idea to “poke the bear” and alert them to your matter. Again, please talk to your attorney and trust their expert advice about how to handle your no-complaint case.