How to File a Criminal Complaint in the District Court of Maryland

I believe that a crime has been committed against me or a minor in my custody. What should I do?

Step One: Reporting the Crime to the Police

By reporting the incident to your local police department, you’re creating a record of it even if the police are unable to investigate the crime.

The police may conduct an investigation, depending upon the nature of the incident. An investigation would determine whether or not charges are filed by the police with a District Court commissioner. If the police do file charges, the incident is now under the authority of the court.

Step Two: File Charges with a District Court Commissioner

You may file an Application for Statement of Charges with a District Court commissioner, if the police do not conduct an investigation or file charges.

A judicial officer will review the Application for Statement of Charges to decide if sufficient evidence exists to charge the defendant with a crime. You will need to tell the commissioner, in writing, the details of the crime.

Step Three: How to Complete the Application

This application will help the commissioner determine whether or not there is probable cause for charges to be filed. Therefore, you must provide adequate and accurate information.

  • Who– Under Complainant list your name and contact information. Under Defendant, identify the person you are accusing of committing the crime.
  • Description– Describe the defendant as accurately as possible. It is important to provide as much detailed information as possible.
  • When– State the time, day, month and year of the crime.
  • Where- State the exact street address of the crime. This must include city, county and state. Provide as much information as possible and state whether the incident occurred in a public or private place.
  • What– State exactly what was done to you or the minor in your custody. If property was taken, describe it and its value. If property was damaged or destroyed, state the original cost and the replacement cost. If you do not know an exact detail pertaining to this section, estimate it as accurately as possible.
  • Why– Include any information you may have regarding why the acccused intended to commit a criminal act.
  • How- In this section, you are required to state, as descriptively as possible, exactly how the defendant committed the offense. For example, if you or a minor in your custody were assaulted, were you struck with a fist, a flat hand, kicked or pushed, or were you struck with an object, such as a pipe?

Step Four: Issuing a Summons or an Arrest Warrant

After the application has been completed, the commissioner will review it in order to determine whether or not a crime has been committed. The commissioner will also determine if there is reason to believe that the person you have accused in the application committed it.

A charging document is issued if the commissioner determines that there is probable cause. A summons for the defendant to appear in court or a warrant for the arrest of the defendant will be issued by the commissioner.

A law enforcement officer authorized to serve the summons will attempt to do so if a summons is issued. “Serving” the summons means delivering it to the defendant.

If a warrant is issued, the document will be given to the law enforcement agency responsible for finding and arresting the accused person.

Step Five: Court

After filing the application, you cannot change your mind about filing the charge. The charge may only be disposed of by trial or by action of the State’s Attorney.

You will be required to appear in court as a witness. Failure to appear in court on the date set by the court may result in your arrest for failure to obey a court order.

A person who knowingly provides false information in an application for a charging document shall be subject to a fine of not more than five hundred dollars, or be imprisoned not more than six months, or be both fined and imprisoned at the discretion of the court.


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