The police do not have to tell you if someone has pressed charges against you. In most cases, you'll find out only when enforcement action is taken, such as a warrant is issued for your arrest or you are summoned to appear in court. You can learn about court dates, bench warrants or pending cases through the court system or district attorney's office. However, while the police are still investigating the incident, there's not much you can do.
Play the Waiting Game
When people go to the police to press charges, what they're really doing is making a report. It's up to the police to investigate the incident and discuss the matter with the prosecuting attorney, who decides whether there's enough evidence to file criminal charges. You'll know if the report turns into criminal charges because the police will come to arrest you. The best approach is to let the police do their job of weeding out unfounded reports from legitimate ones. The person who made the report cannot force the police to file criminal charges, and you may find that nothing comes of the investigation.
Check the Court Records
If the police decide not to arrest you but there's evidence of a criminal offense, the district attorney's office could file a complaint and serve notice for your appearance in court. You'll learn about this when papers arrive in the mail notifying you of the court date. Since papers take a few days to arrive, you can call the clerk of your local criminal court and ask if any court dates, bench warrants or pending cases have been filed. You can often search for this information online. Type "court records [state or county where you are looking]" and see if this returns any records.
Call the Police
If you urgently need to know if someone has pressed charges against you, you can call the local police department non-emergency number and ask. The police can run a warrant check, which would advise if charges have been filed against you. You are not, however, entitled to be informed of an ongoing investigation. This is to prevent the harassment of witnesses and victims and to make sure that the police are not impeded in the carrying out of their duties.
Read More: How to Sue a Police Department
Get a Copy of the Police Report
Certain police records are public documents. Defendants have the right to see police reports so they know what they are accused of. If charges have been brought against you, you can request a copy of the police report through the district attorney's office which is prosecuting the case. The police report will usually tell you the nature of the incident, date and place it occurred, names of the parties involved and police reference number. Personal information may be redacted or blacked out to protect the privacy of the person who pressed charges against you.
Be aware that you become a "defendant" only when legal charges are filed in court. If the original report does not result in enforcement action, then you'll have to apply for a copy of the police report through the records division of your local police department. In many jurisdictions, you can obtain copies only if the report has been closed.
Jayne Thompson earned an LL.B. in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “Big Law” firms before launching a career as a commercial writer. Her work has appeared on numerous legal blogs including Quittance, Upcounsel and Medical Negligence Experts.