“There exists a shadowy government with its own Air Force, its own Navy, its own fundraising mechanism, and the ability to pursue its own ideas of national interest, free from all checks and balances, and free from the law itself.”   
                             —    Senator Daniel K. Inouye (1987)

Private Prosecutions

Private prosecution is a valid legal method, that allows individuals, businesses or organizations who have been the victims of crime to pursue justice in the criminal courts by bringing a criminal case themselves, without the involvement of law enforcement agencies. They can offer an alternative remedy in cases where an investigation or prosecution has not been pursued by the state.

For TI’s living in Europe, Asia, or Australia – this may be an opportunity for justice. 
Do not try this by yourself.  Get with a group to pursue it.

The right to private prosecution in federal cases was removed following the 1981 Supreme Court decision in Leeke v. Timmerman, affirming an earlier decision in Linda R. S. v. Richard D. However, a federal prosecutor may appoint a private attorney to prosecute a case. Elsewhere, private prosecution is governed by state laws.

  • California

Prosecutions are implicitly limited to district attorneys per California Penal Code § 739, which describes the “duty” of district attorneys to file charges after a judge finds grounds that an offense has been committed.

  • Colorado

In 1974, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that private prosecutions were improper and prejudicial to the defendant.

  • Georgia

In Georgia, criminal proceedings may be initiated at the request of a private citizen, but only after the defendant is given an opportunity to argue why he or she should not be charged.

  • New Jersey

The 1995 decision of State v. Storm prohibited private prosecutions unless there is no conflict of interest or financial interest. Furthermore, state law states that all private prosecutions require approval of the county prosecutor and the court.

  • New York

In 2002, a federal district court concluded in Kampfer v. Vonderheide that private prosecutions were barred under New York law as a violation of the defendant’s due process rights. However, in Kampfer the court confirmed that a private prosecution is possible where there is an “underlying civil cause of action” in relation to the events which gave rise to the prosecution.

  • North Carolina

Private prosecutors were used in North Carolina as late as 1975. The court ruled in State v. Best in 1974 that an elected prosecutor must be in charge of all prosecutions.

  • Rhode Island

In 2001, the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled in Diane S. Cronan ex rel. State v. John J. Cronan that a private citizen could file criminal complaints for misdemeanors. However, prosecution of felonies remains limited to the state. Private prosecutors also cannot seek penalties of greater than one year of incarceration or a fine of greater than $1,000.

  • South Carolina

The right was removed from South Carolina law in the nineteenth century. However, private citizens may still initiate a criminal case by filing a request with a magistrate, although magistrates can only issue summonses in response to private criminal complaints.

  • Texas

Texas allows a private citizen to contact a grand jury to seek an indictment.

  • Virginia

The use of a private prosecutor was incorporated into the common law of Virginia and is still permitted there.

  • Wisconsin

Private prosecutions in Wisconsin were outlawed following the decision of Biemel v. State in 1855. In 1890, the court ruled that a private attorney can assist in a prosecution as long as there is no conflict of interest.
Many states have exceptions.

  • North Carolina: allows it.
  • South Carolina: a private citizen may initiate a criminal case by approaching a magistrate, though the magistrate may issue only a summons, not an arrest warrant, in response to a private citizen’s complaint. S.C. Code § 22-5-110.
  • Maryland: a private citizen may apply to a “commissioner,” similar to a North Carolina magistrate, who may issue a summons or, under limited circumstances, an arrest warrant. Md. Stat. § 2-607(c)(6) .
  • Virginia: private citizen complaints are permitted but must be made in writing. Va. Stat. § 19.2-72.
  • Georgia: criminal process may be issued based on a request by a private citizen, though only after a “warrant application hearing” at which the potential accused has an opportunity to argue that charges should not be issued. Ga. Code. 17-4-40.
  • Pennsylvania: a private citizen may file a complaint with a prosecutor. If the prosecutor approves it, the complaint is transmitted to a judicial official for issuance of process. If the prosecutor disapproves the complaint, the citizen has the right to seek judicial review of that decision. Penn. R. Crim. P. 506.
  • Ohio: a private citizen “may file an affidavit charging the offense committed with a [judge, prosecutor, or magistrate] for the purpose of review to determine if a complaint should be filed by the prosecuting attorney.” Ohio Code § 2935.09. Apparently, this process was enacted in 2006, replacing a process by which a private citizen could charge a crime directly, without review by any official, by submitting an affidavit charging the offense. State v. Mbodji, 951 N.E.2d 1025 (Ohio 2011).
  • Idaho: Idaho law appears to be similar to North Carolina’s: “[A] warrant for arrest may be issued upon a complaint filed upon information by a private citizen if the magistrate, after investigation, is satisfied that the offense has been committed.” State v. Murphy, 584 P.2d 1236 (Idaho 1978). See also Idaho Stat. 19-501 et seq. (describing the procedure for seeking an arrest warrant with no limitation to law enforcement officers).
  • New Hampshire: at least certain minor offenses may be initiated – and prosecuted – by private citizens. State v. Martineau, 808 A.2d 51 (2002).
  • Some states apparently allow crime victims or witnesses to approach the grand jury to seek an indictment. Douglas E. Beloof, Weighing Crime Victims’ Interests in Judicially Crafted Criminal Procedure, 56 Cath. U. L. Rev. 1135 (2007) (explaining that such a right exists in Texas).

Targeted Justice is not a law firm and does not provide legal advice.  Please consult an attorney.