Private Criminal Complaints

The police normally bring charges against persons who have committed crimes.  The Office of the District Attorney urges persons who believe they have been the victim of a crime to report the crime to their local police department.  The police have the training, experience, and knowledge to enable them to determine where jurisdiction lies, conduct an investigation, determine if a crime has been committed, and then the legal knowledge and expertise necessary to file the appropriate criminal charges.

Pennsylvania law does, however, permit an individual to file criminal charges against another person on his or her own. 

Rule 506 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure permits an individual to file a Private Criminal Complaint before a Magisterial District Judge.  If you file a Private Criminal Complaint, you become the “affiant”, or the person making the allegation, just as if you were a police officer.  The same rules apply to you in filing charges that apply to a police officer.  

A mere allegation is not sufficient to initiate criminal charges.  Filing a Private Criminal Complaint in no way guarantees that criminal charges will be officially filed.  Just as a police officer must do, you must demonstrate that “probable cause” exists that the person you wish to have arrested did, in fact, commit a crime.  Probable Cause is the legal standard of proof that our courts require in order for charges to be officially filed. 

In other than Summary Offenses, the Office of the District Attorney must approve every Private Criminal Complaint before a Magisterial District Judge is permitted to issue process.

Filing Procedure

  1. Obtain a PRIVATE CRIMINAL COMPLAINT AND QUESTIONAIRRE

    • This complaint form is available from a Magisterial District Judge, from the Office of the District Attorney, or you can download the form from this website by clicking above.

    • The quiestionairre portion is used by the District Attorney's Office to gather additional information about the alleged offenses.  Your private complaint cannot be processed without this form.  Please complete the form and include it when submitting the complaint form.

  2. Complete the Private Criminal Complaint providing a thorough and detailed explanation of the facts and circumstances that cause you to believe a crime was committed and what crime or crimes you are alleging were committed.

  3. Once complete, file the forms and any supporting documentation with the Magisterial District Court having jurisdiction over where the alleged crime(s) occurred.  A listing of all Magisterial District Courts in Monroe County is available on our Magisteral District Court Information page.

Approval Procedure

The Magisterial District Judge will forward your forms to the Office of the District Attorney, where they will be assigned to an Assistant District Attorney.

The Assistant District Attorney can approve or disapprove the Private Criminal Complaint immediately, but will sometimes forward the complaint to a County Detective who will conduct an investigation of the crime or crimes you have alleged.

With the additional information provided by the investigation, the Assistant District Attorney will then make a determination if probable cause exists to justify the official filing of the charges.  If the Assistant District Attorney determines, based upon the facts, circumstances, and the law, that probable cause exists, the complaint will be approved and returned to the Magisterial District Judge to issue process.

If the Assistant District Attorney determines, based upon the facts, circumstances, and the law, that probable cause does not exist, the complaint will be rejected and returned to the Magisterial District Judge who will notify you that process will not be issued.

If the Private Criminal Complaint is approved and process is issued, you must appear at any and all court proceedings that result.  You will also be responsible for providing the Magisterial District Judge with the names and addresses of all persons you wish called as witnesses on your behalf.

Bad Check Complaints

Please do not file a Private Criminal Complaint concerning bad checks offenses.  The Office of the District Attorney has instituted a specific Bad Check Restitution Program to assist local merchants and citizens in receiving restitution, and prosecuting criminally if necessary, dishonored and returned checks.

Please see the Bad Check Restitution Program details for more information.