What happens after a complaint is filed with the police

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The victims and witnesses of a crime may wonder what happens when they file a complaint with the police. Will there be an investigation? Will the suspect be arrested and detained?

The police may investigate

The purpose of a police investigation is to identify the suspect and gather as much evidence as possible to decide whether a crime was committed. The length of the investigation lasts depends on the nature of the crime and the complexity of the case. It could take weeks, months, or even years. 

In some cases, the police may end an investigation. For example, if they decide that no crime had been committed.

The police may arrest the suspect

Generally, the person who has been arrested will be released. The police will then give them a document with a date to appear in court. The document can also be mailed to the suspect..

In some cases, the suspect will have to comply with various conditions such as not contacting the victim or not going to certain places.

In some cases, the suspect will be detained

If the person is detained, they must be brought before a judge as soon as possible. The delay is generally 24 hours. If the prosecutor objects to their release, it will be up to the judge to decide if they will remain detained until the trial is over. An interim release hearing (also called a bail hearing) would be held within a few days.

If the suspect is released, they will have to comply with certain conditions until the trial is over.

To learn more, please see our article on bail hearings.

The prosecutor decides if the suspect will be accused of a crime

The police will submit their investigation file to the prosecutor who will decide whether or not the suspect will be formally accused of a crime.