criminal court records

Criminal Complaints

A criminal complaint charges a person with a violation of state law and is filed by a county district attorney's office in a county superior court.

In California, if the person has been arrested by police and is in custody, a criminal complaint must be filed and the person arraigned in a superior court within 48 hours of their arrest, unless that falls in a time period when the court is not in session (such as a weekend), in which case it must be within 72 hours.

A criminal complaint lists the charges filed against the defendant, specifically the sections of the state penal code the defendant is accused of violating, and a general description of what the defendant is accused of doing.

Besides the criminal complaint, police reports on the original crime are sometimes attached to the complaint to show what the defendant allegedly did.

However, because of privacy concerns this practice has become less frequent and the courts are redacting or editing out a lot of information in police reports that are filed in court records. Information being removed includes witnesses' and victims' names, addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth, and all social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, ID card numbers, dates of birth, and bank account and credit card numbers.

This can cause delays in accessing the police reports in the court file while the court clerks are redacting them.

Occasionally a criminal complaint will be filed by the California Attorney General's Office, also in a superior court. This can occur when state law enforcement officials, such as at the California Department of Justice, investigate a crime, or when a local district attorney's office has some kind of conflict of interest involving a defendant and the case is turned over to the attorney general for prosecution.

In some instances a prosecutor will present a case to a county criminal grand jury that then will return an indictment against a person in superior court.

Sample Criminal Complaints