How Do Criminal Proceedings Start?
California criminal proceeding begin with the filing of an ‘accusatory pleading’ in a court with jurisdiction. It’s filed by a prosecutor in a San Diego Criminal Court and lists the criminal offenses, including the alleged date(s) of occurrence, believed to have been committed by the defendant.
Types of Accusatory Pleadings
Criminal proceedings start when the Accusatory Pleading is filed. These documents must comply with law. Specifically, they need to be signed by the person or agency that is making the allegation.
Most of the time, the San Diego District Attorney (or City Attorney in Misdemeanor cases) reviews investigative reports, witness statements and other documents before determining what charges will be filed.
In order to be proper, Penal Code § 950 requires that the accusatory pleading contain the following elements:
- title of the action
- name of the court it’s presented to
- names of the parties (typically, People of the State of California vs. Named Defendant)
- statement of the public offense(s) charged
The last element (statement of public offense) is arguably the most important because California’s criminal offenses are only created by statute.