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How do I file a Criminal Complaint?

 

Go to the clerk's office in the District Court and ask for a Criminal Complaint form .

Part of the form will ask you what happened. You should fill this out carefully because it will be part of your statement to the court.

If you have trouble filling out this form or you need other help with your case, you can ask for help from the court's Victim/ Witness Advocate. The clerk at the desk may be able to tell you how to find someone to help you with the paperwork.

Once you have filled the form out, give it to the clerk to file.

Where can I file a criminal complaint?

You can file a criminal complaint at the District Court in or near the town where the abuse happened.

If the crime is a violation of a 209A Protective Order from a district court, you have two choices about where to file a criminal complaint.

  1. You can file the criminal complaint in the District Court where the crime happened , or
  2. in the District Court where you got the protective order.

Example

You live in Ware. You have a 209A protective order from Ware District Court. The abuser violated the order while you were shopping in Pittsfield. You can file a criminal complaint in either Ware District Court or Pittsfield District Court.

But if the crime is a violation of a 209A protective order from a Probate and Family Court, you probably have to file the criminal complaint in the District Court near where the crime happened.

If it is too hard for you to file in the District Court near where the crime happened because of distance or safety reasons, you can talk with the Victim/Witness Advocate in the District Court nearest to you. The Victim/Witness Advocate might help you file the complaint in the right court or ask the Victim/Witness Advocate in that court to help you.

You might want to file in the District Court where the crime happened even if you have the choice of a closer court because:

  • possible witnesses are there;
  • the police report is from there;
  • the police officers who were involved are there; or
  • there might be a related crime, like assault and battery, that is being prosecuted in there.

If I decide to file a criminal complaint, will there be anyone in court to help me?

If your case goes to criminal court, the District Attorney's office will prosecute the case. There are two kinds of people you will probably speak with in the DA's office:

  • The Assistant District Attorney (ADA): ADAs are the lawyers who prosecute crimes. You will see them handle the arraignment, the trials, and any other hearings during criminal cases. The ADAs should talk to you about the case and help prepare you for talking to the court about what happened (“testifying”).
  • The Victim/Witness Advocate (VWA): Each District Attorney's office has a Victim/Witness Assistance Program. The people who work in this office help victims and witnesses of crimes. You will probably meet the VWA right at the start of the case. You should write down the name of the VWA who is on your case, and call them whenever you have questions or concerns about the case. The VWA often has a hotline telephone number. The VWA can help you:
  • understand what will happen in criminal court,
  • understand your rights,
  • prepare for testifying against the abusive person in criminal court,
  • write a "Victim Impact Statement" for the court,
  • file for a 209A protective order (also called a restraining order),
  • apply for help to pay some of your bills from the Victims' Compensation Fund ,
  • understand how to file your own criminal complaint,
  • find out if and when the abusive person will be let out of jail,
  • get services that you need.

It is sometimes hard to remember who all of the people at the DA's office and the court are. It is fine to ask court staff, "Who are you? What do you do here?"


Produced by an AmeriCorps Project of Western Massachusetts Legal Services updated and revised Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last updated October 2009


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