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What Does it Mean to “Press Charges” in Massachusetts?

What does it mean to press charges in MA?

My name is Matthew W. Peterson and I am a criminal defense, family, firearms, and immigration attorney based in Boston. While I have been working in the legal field for many years now, I know the criminal justice system is anything but intuitive. Being involved in the system can be stressful, overwhelming, and confusing at times. When you’re involved in the criminal legal system, it can be hard to know where to turn first.

If I Want to “Press Charges” Against Someone, Should I Call a Law Office?

My firm often gets phone calls and messages from people who want to “press charges” against another individual. But what does that really mean? And if you’re in that position, should you be contacting my office, or another firm to do that?

The short answer to the above question, is no.

How Does “Pressing Charges” Work in Massachusetts?

If you’re looking to move forward in pressing charges against someone, calling an attorney’s office is not a step that is involved in the process. Private criminal attorneys are defense attorneys – lawyers that people hire to defend them against criminal charges in court. The attorneys that prosecute criminal charges are attorneys who work for the District Attorney’s office (DA’s office) and they work on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and are a government agency. When someone chooses to “press charges” against another person, if the criminal charges move forward, it is really the state of Massachusetts that is moving the charges along and prosecuting the defendant.

In order to start a criminal case against someone (when the police have not yet been involved), you must:

  • Go to the police station in the city/town closest to where the incident occurred
  • Get a Police Incident Report form and complete the form
  • Submit the form to the police station
  • Take a copy of the completed Incident Report form to the court that is closest to where the incident occurred
  • Complete an application for criminal complaint
  • Attend a hearing at the courthouse for the judge to determine whether or not to move forward in filing the criminal complaint

Keep in mind that the steps above will look different if the police had already been involved. For example, if an incident occurred, and you called the police, you will be asked if you’d like to file a police report and make a statement at that time. The above steps for “pressing charges” are only followed if you did not call the police to the scene of the incident when it first occurred.

Contact Us Today

I understand that the criminal justice system can be stressful and overwhelming at times. If you are being charged with a crime in the state of Massachusetts, contact me today. I have the skills and experience to help you, and will give your case the time and attention it deserves. I have an office location in Boston and Salem, Massachusetts, and I take cases all over the Greater Boston area. Some of the courts that I service include: Roxbury, Dorchester, Cambridge, Malden, Brighton, Lawrence, Haverhill, and Peabody. Visit this link to see a more in depth list of the courts that I take cases at.

You can reach out to me via text or phone call at 617-295-7500, or you can leave me a message on my website.







Although I am an attorney, I am not your attorney.  Please do not rely on anything on this page as legal advice because any specific advice would depend on your situation.  Any results posted on this page are not guarantees of outcomes in your case.

Boston Attorney

The court system is stressful, whether you’re being charged with a crime, being sued, suing someone, or fighting for your ability to stay and work in this country. You need someone who appreciates this and can dedicate the time not only to represent you effectively in court but to guide you through the process.

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