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Can Maryland residents file a criminal complaint?

Most Maryland residents are familiar with how the criminal justice system proceeds in the state. What usually happens is that a warrant or criminal complaint is filed against someone by the local prosecutor's office and then local law enforcement officials locate and place this individual under arrest. But, are there situations where an everyday citizen can file a criminal charge against another citizen?

This type of situation is accepted by the state of Maryland, as well as most other states in the nation. The procedure is called filing a citizen complaint and any adult Maryland resident can file a criminal charge against another individual through the District Court Commissioner's Office. During the process, the complainant, or the person who wants to file a criminal charge against someone, takes an oath stating that everything that they are giving to the Commissioner's Office is, to the best of their knowledge, the truth. The complainant then gives their written statement about the alleged criminal charge to the office personnel.

Once filed, the Commissioner must then decide if there is cause to move forward with the case. If the Commissioner issues an arrest warrant, then the complainant has one week to go to the State Attorney's Office and look at the case that is being developed. While there, the Commissioner then asks the complainant to pick one of two potential dates to appear at the SAO. The complainant must return to the SAO at the date selected and bring all potential evidence they have that might prove their case. Evidence can include witnesses, photos and phone records.

The next step in the process is for the Commissioner to determine if a summons or arrest warrant should be issued in the case or if no charges should be filed at all. However, any Maryland resident who has been on the receiving end of a citizen's complaint may want to speak with a criminal defense attorney to find out exactly what other steps occur in this process.

Source:, "What happens to a case in Prince George's County Criminal Court?," Accessed March 18, 2016

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