Unfortunately for many the answer is YES. The North Carolina arrest warrant statute, G.S. 15A-304, requires only that a magistrate be “supplied with sufficient information, supported by oath or affirmation” to find probable cause. The statute doesn’t limit the source of that information to law enforcement officers. It is common in North Carolina for private citizens to seek the issuance of an arrest warrant or a summons. We generally see this a lot for cases of communicating threats and assault charges.
Were you charged with a “citizen’s case” in Wake County?
The general rule in the United States is that private citizens can’t initiate criminal prosecutions. There turn out to be quite a few exceptions, but the general rule does seem to be that only government officials of various kinds can initiate criminal prosecutions.
How does the process work in North Carolina?
North Carolina does not have any limits on the type of charge allowed to be charged by statute. However, as a matter of practice, North Carolina magistrates impose restrictions and we usually just see minor charges from this process. Most North Carolina magistrates will not issue felony charges based on a citizen’s complaint alone. Some magistrates generally issue summonses rather than warrants in citizen-initiated cases. Some magistrates also ask citizen complainants to prepare a written statement of facts.
Should North Carolina allow this process to continue?
Is it a good idea to allow citizens to initiate criminal charges? No. It allows citizens who are so inclined to bring totally baseless charges more easily that if an officer were involved in the matter. Generally we see a lot of cases that are totally bogus charges with no real proof other than “he said, she said.” The downside for those accused of a crime is that as soon as those charges are filed they have a record of the charge that does not go away unless it can be expunged. Once the summons is issued the District Attorney is generally required to prosecute these flimsy cases.
Contact Raleigh Defense Lawyer Wiley Nickel
If you were charged with a citizen initiated complaint in Wake County contact The Law offices of Wiley Nickel, PLLC at 919-585-1486 for a free consultation. We will talk with you about the process to try to get the case dismissed and then expunged from your criminal record. We handle Raleigh area misdemeanor criminal cases and out office is located in Cary, NC.