F.A.Q. – Filing A Criminal Complaint

Q. Can I sign a criminal complaint against someone that I believe has committed a crime?

A. Criminal complaints may be signed by anyone. However, the vast majority of all criminal complaints are signed by police officers. To sign a complaint, you must contact the Municipal Court Administrator in the town where the event occurred. He or she will advise you of the procedures that must be followed. These procedures include the administration of an oath swearing that the information provided in the complaint is true. Before signing a criminal complaint, it is advised that you contact the police, especially if the matter involves violence or the threat of violence. The police will advise you if the matter you are reporting is criminal in nature and whether it requires investigation by their department.

Q. When I report a crime to the police, will I be required to sign a criminal complaint?

A. No, you cannot be required to sign a complaint. In certain cases, the information you provide may trigger a thorough police investigation, where the police themselves will initiate a complaint if the investigation justifies it. Or, it may contribute to an investigation already in process. However, in some instances, the signing of a complaint by the victim of a crime or a witness to a crime will expedite the prosecution process. Again, the local police will advise you whether the matter you are reporting is appropriate for a signed complaint.

Q. I was told by the Municipal Court Administrator that the complaint that I signed was remanded by the Prosecutor’s Office. What does that mean?

A. All complaints charging crimes are immediately referred to the Prosecutor’s Office for review. Once received, the Prosecutor’s Office reviews the complaint, obtains any police reports that were prepared concerning it, and, where indicated, contacts the complainant/victim or investigating police officer (or both) for further information and comment. If the Prosecutor’s Office determines that the complaint can be adequately dealt with by the local municipal court, the crime charged in the complaint will be amended to state a disorderly persons offense and the complaint will be returned to the municipal court for the hearing.

Q. I want to dismiss a complaint that I signed. How do I go about doing this?

A. If the complaint charges a disorderly persons offense only, contact the municipal court where you signed the complaint. If the complaint charges an indictable offense (a crime, as opposed to a disorderly persons offense), contact the Prosecutor’s Office.

Q. When I contacted the Prosecutor’s Office and told them that I wanted to dismiss the indictable complaint that I signed, I was told that my “request” would not be honored and that the complaint had been referred to the Grand Jury. Why?

A. Once signed, indictable criminal complaints are prosecuted on behalf of the State of New Jersey, not the individual who signed the complaint. A variety of factors are taken into account when deciding whether to honor a complainant’s request not to proceed with an indictable prosecution, including the nature and extent of the defendant’s prior criminal history, the severity of the alleged crime, and whether the defendant has other pending charges in the criminal justice system.