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What Happens When You File A Police Report on Someone

What Happens When You File a Police Report on Someone : Non - Criminal Options

What happens when you file a police report on someone is dependent on the circumstances of why the police were called in the first place as well as what state you are reporting the crime in. What typically happens when you call the police is that the officer or officers will speak to both parties. It is very likely that each person is going to give a story revealing themselves in the best positive light while “neglecting” to give some details that make them look, well bad. By speaking with all involved parties, this will give the officer the ability to confront either party about contradicting evidence such as text, video or statements made by both sides. After gathering all of the information, there are several options that the officer, victims and involved parties have.

What Happens When You File a Police Report on Someone dispatcher

No action taken

Often, individuals who contact the police want us on scene to document ongoing or new issue. They may have already taken steps to speak with the bothering party or want officers to make the first contact. Many of these complaints are from friends, families, neighbors, and acquaintances who want things to be as civil as possible. However, they do want it documented for future use, if they need to resort to a stronger action. Police are regularly called to the scene by witnesses and uninvolved parties from things that they have observed or could hear. If there is no action requested or mandated (see mandated arrest section), officers/victims may elect to document the incident through notes or a report for their future reference if need be.

Offer Available Services

Law enforcement can offer services for individuals and their families who called the police. Law enforcement can help individuals apply for a restraining orders (Domestic – Think Family Like Relationship) and/or Harassment orders (Think friends, and neighbors.) Although we are not experts on the marriage of issues our society faces, we have direct connections to help individuals get service with alcohol and drug addiction, shelters for short term and long term homelessness, mental health treatment, child/elderly assistance and many other support functions.

Civil proceedings only

Officers are often called to the scene where there are no criminal laws being broken and will act more in a support and knowledge sharing biases. These can be neighbor issues, tenant/landlord or a series of other complains where we as law enforcement officers don’t have a legal right to act. For instance, a landlord may call and complain about their tenant is having too many friends over, potentially breaking the terms of the lease or just making the landlord unhappy. Well in many, if not all states, law enforcement officers don’t really have any legal recourse to do anything in this scenario. Sure they can give them advice on what steps they can take to rectify the issue, such as no trespassing orders (see below), eviction process, or just speaking with the tenants. Of course, there are certain scenarios where law enforcement can step in, and we will go over a couple resolutions we can offer.  

What Happens When You File a Police Report on Someone folders

No Trespassing

This is when an individual has control over a property and wishes for another party to stay away. This could be used for businesses who can ask law enforcement to have an individual placed on a no-trespassing notice. If that individual violates the no-trespassing notice after being served, they are subject to arrest. Depending on the state no-trespassing notices can also help with landlord/tenant issues.  If a tenant is allowing another individual onto the property and is causing issues such as disturbing the peace, making noises, yelling and being disorderly, the landlord and place a no-trespassing notice on the bothering party. Now here is the catch, this no-trespassing notice can usually only be for common areas, such as hallways, steps, backyards but does not typically extend to the inside of the tenant’s home. This means that the tenant can still invite the “bothering party” over, but they must be going into the apartment, inside the apartment, or leaving the apartment.

Ordinance violations

Every City, Town and village will have different ordinances set in place that give authority to law enforcement to act on otherwise non-criminal matters. Drinking in public, use of marijuana in public and excessive noise are some of the more common issues addressed. Depending on the agreement and wording of the ordinances, some of these ordinances may even allow law enforcement to effectively arrest individuals who violate the terms. Of course, each state, city and town will have different ordinances terms in place, so what may be deemed arrestable in one city, may not be in the next. Compare  Nashville Tennessee where you can walk in the streets and drink from a plastic cup of alcohol, (but not with glass or metal can) to Boston Massachusetts where you can’t walk around with an open container of alcohol of any sorts.

What Happens When You File a Police Report on Someone Alcohol

What Happens When You File a Police Report on Someone: Criminal Options

With the exception of states who have “Shall” (Mandatory) and “should” (good reason not too) arrests for crimes and court proceedings such as warrants. domestic physical assaults, restraining orders, and violent crimes (see next section for more information) victims have several options.

First would be to do nothing.

Victims can choose to do nothing and just have officers document the crime. Let’s say a friend of a friend was over at your house and took a pair of your sunglasses. You can advise officers to let them know if they return them by the end of the week, then no criminal charges will be pressed. The case would only move forward if the suspect does not return the sunglasses and the victim proceeds with criminal charges.

Take out your own complaint.

Although it is not as common, a “victim” of a crime can seeks out their own complaint through the courts. I tend to see only see this in a set of circumstances as officers will almost always take out charges if probable cause exists. Let’s say there was a physical assault between two people and the police deemed one of the individuals as the primary aggressor and charge them with Assault and Battery. That individual then gets upset that the other party was not charged as well and will/can seek their own complaint with the courts.

Criminal Complaint – Hearing

A hearing is when police have a report of a crime but do not know if it meets the criteria of probable cause as it lacks evidence. An example is if party A states Party B texted him that he was going to beat him up but when you ask to see the text message, he says that he deleted it. The officer speaks with Party B who tells you to “beat it” and doesn’t want to talk with the officer.

What Happens When You File a Police Report on Someone mailbox

Criminal Complaint – Summons

This is an application for a criminal complaint and are used when officers do not have the authority to arrest or are choosing not to arrest someone. An example is that someone is operating/driving their car, strikes a mailbox then leaves the scene of property damage. In most states this would be a misdemeanor (see here for the difference between misdemeanor and Felony) without the authority to arrest. When the suspect is identified they would be summoned to court. Shoplifting is often an arrestable offense; however officers can elect to summon the suspect as opposed to arresting them.

Criminal Complaint – Warrant

Requesting a warrant is done for a couple reasons. First is that the crime was a felony, or arrestable misdemeanor and officers were unable to bring them into custody (took off in a car prior to police arrival). An example is if you identify a suspect for an armed robbery but you are unable to locate them, you can request a warrant so that if they are located, they can be arrested and brought into custody.

Another purpose for the warrant complaint application is to arrest offenders for offenses that do not have arrest authority but are believed to pose a danger or a flight risk. A threat to commit a crime charge is often a none-arrestable misdemeanor. Let’s say an ex-husband threatens to set the victim’s house on fire and sends a video of him pumping gas into a canister, officers can request a warrant so that they can effect an arrest on the ex-husband.


Lastly, when there is probable cause that someone has committed an arrestable misdemeanor or a felony they can move towards placing them under arrest and bringing them directly to court to face the charges.

What Happens When You File a Police Report on Someone arrest

Mandatory arrest

Of course, the serious crimes such as murder, kidnapping, home invasion, armed robberies, and sexual assaults are major felonies. Since these crimes often need more time to develop compelling evidence (beyond a reasonable doubt), evidence the suspect won’t be able to wiggle themselves out of, it allows law enforcement officers some discretion on when to move forward with an arrest or pursue chargers. But what happens when laws are set in place restricting law enforcements choices?

Some states are developing legislation that gives officers little to no discretion when they are deciding on whether to arrest, seek charges or do nothing. These instances are mostly dealing with domestic violence, restraining orders (domestic – family like relationship) and/or harassment prevention orders (friends, and neighbors.) Law makers are using these arrests as a way of creating a mandatory cooling off period so that the defendants don’t retaliate against the suspect for calling the police and have more time to think about their actions. Some state legislation has even gone as far as stating that even if you are eligible for bail, they can’t be released for several hours, to help prolong the cooling off period.

Another benefit of this idea is that the threshold for an arrest is probable cause, and those individuals who are abused both physically and mentally may not have the strength to leave their current situation. These laws were created to give that decision making over to the officers who “should” or “shall” arrest on probable cause. If a witness happens to see the physical assault and calls the police, officers can use their statement, corroborated with marks/bruises/video to make decision to arrest even if the victim is purposefully being untruthful to protect the attacker.

                There is another added element which is that the prosecution team can still move forward with pursing criminal charges even if the victim doesn’t want charges or changes their story. This means that if there is enough evidence, including witnesses, video surveillance bruises and marks, prosecution can elect to move forward with the charges on their own. From my personal experience, it is very uncommon for the District attorneys or assistant district attorneys to move forward with an uncooperative victim unless it involved children or serious bodily injury.

Like many other decisions intended to make a positive impact, there are negative consequences of taking away the discretion of the victims and the police. Many of these relationships are complicated and are not as simple as breaking up and moving on. They have homes together, financial accounts, young children, and history all connecting them to each other. It is unfortunate but far too many victims end up back with defendant days, weeks, months, and years after police take action and even side by side with the defendant while in court. The perpetrator can use this event to “punish” the victim and accuse them of making their lives worse. These events can have huge impacts on the defendant; loss of jobs, high attorney fees, and loss of reputation resulting in more financial and social stress. This may result in more arguments, more fights, and more stress, making it harder for the two to move forward and develop alternate coping mechanisms.

Conclusion - What Happens When You File a Police Report on Someone?

The short answer to what happens when you file a police report on someone is dependent on all of the above factors.  Each for service will have a varied outcome, dependent on the circumstances and cooperation of the parties involved. It is also important to mention that not every police department will have the same resources, training, and experience to provide the same level of service. A small town in the middle of Nebraska may have a one (1) officer department who is the chief of police that doesn’t work nights or weekend compared to Chicago which will have all the available resources and officers at their disposal. Keep in mind that just because an officer is requesting a warrant, or a summons doesn’t mean that the Clerk Magistrate or Judge will approve it and it could be “knocked down” do what they feel more appropriate. This means that a warrant application can be denied, and a summons can be issued instead.

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By Branden

Branden is a Police Lieutenant who has investigated numerous crimes. He has written and executed multiple search warrants, conducted various protective sweeps, pat frisks and exit orders. He has been involved in numerous police vehicle chases, fights, disturbances, foot pursuits, suspect/hostage negotiations and felony stops. He is trained with an assortment of weapons. He has spoken with countless victims, witnesses and suspects and is using his experience to better protect our communities and loved ones by sharing his knowledge through his writings.

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