If you’ve been the victim of a crime in Virginia, you can seek a civil suit and/or you can pursue criminal charges. A civil suit can result in the award of damages to you as the victim, and provide you with an avenue of collecting more information to prove your case. Filing civilly typically requires you to retain the services of an attorney, and can potentially result in lengthy litigation.
As a victim of a crime, you also have have the option of seeking criminal charges. Criminal charges can result in potential jail time and fines to the defendant. You can pursue both a civil suit and criminal charges simultaneously if you prefer.
Criminal charges can be obtained by the victim in Virginia via the filing of a citizen’s complaint. In filing a citizen’s complaint, you will draft an affidavit, detailing the facts surrounding the incident. In most cases, you must file the complaint in the county/city where the alleged incident occurred. The magistrate will decide whether there is probably cause that a crime occurred. If the magistrate finds there is probable cause, he or she can issue a warrant for the arrest of the defendant, or issue a summons to be served on the defendant. If a summons is served or the warrant is obtained, the defendant will have to appear in court and plead guilty or not guilty to the charges. Typically, the judge advises the defendant of his right to counsel and provides the defendant time to obtain an attorney, resulting in a continuance of the court date. At that point, the prosecutor will likely step in to prosecute the case and the ultimate decision regarding resolution will be in the hands of the Commonwealth Attorney. However, you, as the victim still have rights to be informed of the proceedings under Virginia Code Section 19.2-11.01.
If you have any questions about filing a citizen’s complaint, feel free to call or e-mail McCollum Legal to schedule a consultation.