If you are the victim of an offense that occurred within the city limits of Jasper, you should make a report of this incident to the Jasper Police Department. A police officer will determine if the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony offense. If the charge is a misdemeanor and you want to press charges against the perpetrator of the offense, you will need to see a magistrate at the Jasper Municipal Court located inside City Hall.
There are certain procedures set out in the Code of Alabama that must be followed in the process of pressing charges against an individual. What you need to know and what must be done to press charges against someone is detailed below.
You should carefully consider all aspects of this process before you make a decision to sign a charge against someone. You are asking the City of Jasper to help you prosecute someone for violating a law. It is a serious decision to charge someone with an offense since a charge goes on a person's criminal record even if they are found not guilty. You are making a commitment to follow through on this charge from the beginning to the final decision of the Judge. You may be called upon to give your statement in court before the Judge and can be cross-examined by the alleged perpetrator and/or his attorney. When you sign your name as complainant, you cannot "drop the charges," the Judge has the final decision of each case. If you have any hesitation that this is what you really want to do, listen to your intuition and wait a few days to make your decision. You have one year from the incident to press charges against someone. Once you begin the legal process and sign charges against someone, you cannot change your mind.
Consider that you may be subpoenaed to court on the case and if you do not appear, you can be charged and arrested for failure to appear in court. Any false statements you may make will subject you to civil and/or criminal liability. A decision to press charges against a perpetrator involves many steps to ensure proper procedure is followed. It is important that each step is followed closely.
Reporting an offense to the police is the first step in the judicial process. A police officer will take your statement of what happened during the altercation and ask you to sign this statement. The officer will place your official statement on file at the police department. If the offense is a misdemeanor that occurred within the city limits of Jasper, you will come to the Jasper Municipal Court office within City Hall at 400 West 19th Street, Jasper, Alabama to press charges. The telephone number is (205) 221-4254.
Before you go to the magistrate's office consider these suggestions that help avoid delay in the process. Any witnesses to the incident should accompany you to give their sworn statement to the magistrate. You should bring documentation of any personal or property damages associated with the incident. Medical bills as a result of an assault will be needed. You will need two written estimates on any damage to property on charges of criminal mischief. If the incident involved theft, you should bring proof of ownership of the property taken.
A magistrate is available Monday through Wednesday and Friday 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Court is in session on Thursday afternoons. Although no appointment is necessary, please consider this process may take some time and should not be done hurriedly. Allow enough time in your schedule to give the proper attention to this very important process you have begun.
At the Municipal Court office you will be given a deposition form to complete where you will provide very important information that a magistrate will need in determining if there is probable cause to issue a charge against the perpetrator. The more personal information you can provide about the perpetrator the better. This information will be used in identifying and arresting the perpetrator. There will be questions you will answer on the deposition and a place for you to write out your statement of the facts of the incident. The magistrate must witness your signature on the deposition.
Once the deposition is completed by you, a magistrate will place you under oath and take your sworn statement about the incident. The magistrate will ask you questions about the incident. Using your initial report to the police department, your written statement in the deposition, and your personal and witnesses statement, a magistrate then will make a decision of whether there is probable cause to charge the alleged with the offense. If there is probable cause, the magistrate will prepare the "charging instrument" for your signature and issue a warrant of arrest or a summons to appear in court.
After the alleged has been formally charged, he or she will be allowed to make a bond and be given an arraignment court date. It is not necessary for you appear in court on the arraignment date. If the defendant pleads not guilty to the charge, he or she will be given a trial court date. You will be notified by subpoena of the date the case will be heard. You are required to be in court on a trial date.
A decision to press charges against someone is one that needs careful consideration. The Code of Alabama addresses proper procedures in bringing a charge through the court system. With this outline and the assistance of a magistrate, your experience in the process of pressing charges will be less confusing. Please do not hesitate to call ahead for further instructions.