Is a complaint the same thing as being charged?

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Is a complaint the same thing as being charged?

My son was in a fight in school. The VP of school said he singed the complaint but it is up to the parents of the child he fought with if they want to press charges. He is 17. I received a letter in the mail, the envelope was from the local police department, but inside was just a piece of paper with a docket number and what happens, but the seal on the paper was from the state. Is this the complaint that was filed by the school or does this mean he is being formally charged? There was not a court date, etc on it. Just a docket number his name, indecent, and that it all.

Asked on April 16, 2011 under Criminal Law, New Jersey

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Take what you got in the mail to an attorney as soon as you can.  Each state differs.  But generally speaking a police report has an incident number.  A court proceeding has a docket number.  If there is a docket number that means that the matter is formally in "the system" and that your son is most likely being charged.  Filling out a complaint means giving the police the information needed to charge him and while I suppose the school did so because the fight happened on their property, the individual child would be the complaining witness, unless a school official witnessed it as well.  Take no chances here with all of this.  The matter needs to be addressed sooner rather than later with the police and with the prosecutor's office.  You need some protection for your son.  Good luck.


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