Laying charges

You have a right to be kept informed.

Not all investigations lead to a person being charged police will contact you if someone is charged.

Services are available to support you, even if no one is charged for the crime. 

The case may be held in a different court, depending on how serious the offence is.

If you have been directly impacted by crime, you have a right to be kept informed about how the police investigation is going and whether someone has been charged with a criminal offence.

Police will phone or contact you by mail to tell you:

  • if the accused person has been charged
  • what the charges are.

For some people, it is really important to be kept informed about the investigation, while others prefer not to know. You can tell the police how much you want to be told.

You can learn more about getting information about the police investigation.

How police decide on laying charges

 Police make decisions on laying charges based on:

  • evidence collected during the investigation
  • what the law says about a criminal offence in Victoria
  • keeping the community safe.

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.

What can happen if a person is charged with an offence

Once a criminal charge is laid, the case will go to court. Which court the matter is heard in will depend on how serious the charges are.

You can learn more about how to get ready to go to court as a victim or witness.

The person accused of the crime is called 'the accused' and 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 (this may be called being held on remand)
  • released (not on bail) and summonsed to appear at court at a later time.

In most cases, accused people are summonsed (required) to appear in court on a particular day or, if they are arrested, are granted bail.

Read more about bail and remand and what police can do to help keep you safe.

If no charges are laid

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.

If the police are unable to find the person accused of the crime, or there is not enough evidence to lay charges on that person, you should be contacted by the police investigator to tell you the reasons why. If new evidence is found at a later date, the police may re-open the investigation.

It is important to remember that even if a person is not charged, you are still considered a victim of crime and there are supports available to you.

You can still:

  • get information and advice from the Victims of Crime Helpline
  • get day to day support from the Victims Assistance Program
  • apply for financial assistance.

Call the Victims of Crime Helpline on 1800 819 817 every day from 8am to 11pm for more information.