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Skip Navigation LinksNorthampton County Website DISTRICT ATTORNEY Private Criminal Complaints

Skip Navigation LinksPrivate-Criminal-Complaints Private Criminal Complaints


Typically, the police are responsible for filing charges against people who commit crimes. The Office of the District Attorney strongly recommends that the victim of any crime committed within Northampton County contact their local Police Department. Police officers are trained to investigate potential crimes, determine whether a crime was committed, and file the appropriate charges.

However, Rule 506 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure allows for individuals who are not members of law enforcement to submit their own private criminal complaints. A private individual has the same burden as a law enforcement officer when filing criminal charges, including providing all the information required under Rule 504 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure. An individual who files a private criminal complaint must establish probable cause that the defendant named within the complaint committed a specific criminal offense. Mere allegations without evidence will not suffice.

 FILING YOUR COMPLAINT

​To begin this process you must first obtain the applicable form, available here: Private Criminal Complaint Form or at your local Magisterial District Court office. Once the form has been completely filled out, it should be submitted to the Magisterial District Court that has jurisdiction where the crime occurred. From there, the complaint will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office, where an Assistant District Attorney will determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint satisfy the probable cause requirement.

 IF THE COMPLAINT IS APPROVED

​If the private criminal complaint is approved, you must appear at any and all court proceedings that result and you will be responsible for providing the Magisterial District Court with the names and addresses of any individuals you wish to call as witnesses on your behalf.

 IF THE COMPLAINT IS DISAPPROVED

​If probable cause does not exist, the complaint will not be approved. The District Attorney’s Office will return the complaint to the Magisterial District Court, who will notify you that process will not be issued and provide the reason why. If you disagree with the conclusion reached by the District Attorney’s Office, you may petition the Court of Common Pleas for review of the decision.
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