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Laying charges

During the police investigation, police may call the person accused of committing the crime the 'alleged offender'. This is because our criminal justice system assumes people are innocent until they are proven guilty in a court.

The charges

If the alleged crimes are serious offences such as rape, assault or murder, the police may get advice from the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP) before laying charges. The police may be told that there is not enough evidence to lay charges, and that they will need to continue to collect evidence. This means the investigation may take more time. 

Although both the police and OPP consider the views of the victim, decisions about what charge to lay are based on the evidence collected during the investigation, legal principles and the public interest.

Not all investigations lead to a person being charged. Sometimes the police cannot find enough evidence during their investigation to bring a case to court. This doesn't mean that the police don't believe your story, or that you weren't a victim of crime.

The offender and bail

Once a criminal charge is laid, the person accused of the crime is called 'the accused'. After they are charged by the police, they may be:

  • granted bail and released while waiting for their court case
  • granted bail but not released until the bail requirements are met
  • held in custody until the court hearing
  • released (not on bail) and summonsed to appear at court at a later time.

In most cases, accused people are summonsed to appear in court on a particular day or, if they are arrested, are granted bail. If they are granted bail, they won't be held in custody before the court case. Even if they plead guilty before the court case, they still may be granted bail until the case is heard. Accused people held in custody can apply to be released on bail more than once before the case goes to court.

If you are concerned that the accused person may threaten or harm you or your family, you should talk to the police investigator before the accused person is granted bail. 

If the accused person is released on bail 

You should be told by the police investigator:

  • if the person accused of committing the crime against you is
    released on bail
  • any rules that protect you or your family members from the
    accused person.

You have to tell them that you want to get this information.

Bail may be refused

 The accused person held in custody if the police or courts are satisfied that there is an unacceptable risk that they would:

  • not appear in court
  • commit more offences while on bail
  • endanger the safety or welfare of the public
  • interfere with witnesses (including the victim) or obstruct the course of justice.

Read more about bail.

You don't need a lawyer

You don’t need to have your own lawyer in court. The State of Victoria has prosecutors from Police Prosecutions or the Office of Public Prosecutions that handle criminal cases.

The prosecutor doesn’t work as your personal lawyer. They work on behalf of everyone in the community.

You might need your own lawyer if you want to apply for financial assistance or compensation. This is separate to the criminal case.

You can find information about how to find a lawyer under 'Legal services' on the Get help page.

If the offender is charged

The case will go to court.

If the offender is not charged

If the police can't find an offender for the crime, or the offender is found but there is not enough evidence to lay charges, you should be contacted by the police investigator to tell you the reasons why.

This doesn’t mean that the police do not believe your story, or that you weren’t a victim of crime. If new evidence is found, the police may re-open the investigation.

You can still:

Call the Victims of Crime Helpline on 1800 819 817 for more information.