Criminal charges

Court Procedure

Step 1: Police Report 

A police report is the first step in the criminal process. 

If an officer responds to a domestic violence, dating violence, or sexual violence call, he or she will investigate the incident. If the officer determines a crime has taken place, he or she may arrest the offender or file for an arrest warrant if the offender has fled the scene. The officer will make a police report, which becomes the legal record documenting the incident. The officer may or may not file charges against the abuser. For more on police involvement, see page 21. 

If an officer was not called to the scene of a domestic violence incident, you may still report the incident to the police. If you are in immediate danger, call 911. Otherwise, you may report the incident by calling 859-258-3600 or in person to the Lexington Police Department at 150 East Main St. 

Because additional investigation may be needed and evidence collected, it takes at least 3 days for a police report to be completed. Before moving to the next step, you should call the Police Department to make sure the report is completed. You will receive a case number and confirmation from either a detective or advocate that the report is completed. 

Step 2: Criminal Complaint Review 

Once it has been confirmed that a police report is complete, you may contact the Fayette County Attorney’s Office and make an appointment for the case to be reviewed. To schedule an appointment, call 859-226-1895. 

At your appointment you will need the following: 

  • Valid photo ID 
  • Full name and complete address of the person against whom you want to file a criminal complaint, (date of birth and social security number are also helpful) 
  • A copy of the police report or the case number and any evidence you have including names of witnesses. (See more about evidence on pages 22-24) 

The County Attorney’s Office will help you prepare an affidavit in which you provide all the information related to the criminal complaint. 

Your affidavit will be reviewed by a prosecutor to determine if the allegations against the offender meet the criteria for “probable cause.” If the prosecutor determines there is enough evidence to prosecute, the case will then be sent to a Fayette District Court Judge for review. 

Step 3: Summons or Warrant 

If the District Court Judge finds the allegations in the affidavit are supported by probable cause, he or she will issue a summons or a warrant for the offender, now called the defendant. 

Criminal Summons:

A summons is an order for the defendant to appear in district court. This is a notice and not an arrest. The summons will advise the defendant to appear in court on a particular day for the arraignment. 

Arrest Warrant:

The defendant will be arrested, taken to jail, and arraigned in District Court. 

A sheriff’s deputy will try to serve the defendant with a copy of the summons or arrest warrant. If you have questions about service of papers, contact the Office of the Fayette County Sheriff at (859) 252-1771

NOTE: The issuance of a summons or an arrest warrant in no way guarantees an immediate court appearance, an arrest, that the defendant will stay in jail until the trial, or that the defendant will be found guilty. 

Step 4: Arraignment 

This is the first court date when the defendant appears before the judge and hears the charges against him or her. The judge will appoint an attorney for the defendant if needed, set a pre-trial date, and review bond if the defendant is still in jail. If the defendant is released, conditions of release will be determined by the judge. (see VINE on page 26 for information on notification of release). 

“No contact with the victim” may be a condition of release. Check with a victim advocate to see if this applies to your case and what you should do if that condition is violated. 

Step 5: Pre Trial

This is the time of investigation and resolution negotiations. The defendant will enter a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty.” If the defendant pleads “not guilty,” there will be additional court dates. However, at any point the defendant may change the plea to “guilty.” The defendant’s plea, along with other factors, will determine how far through the court process the case will go and how long it will take. 

A victim advocate will try to contact you during this time. You may contact an advocate by calling the County Attorney’s Office at (859) 254-4941. An advocate will also be present in court. 

Step 6: Trial

This is the formal hearing of the case in front of a judge and/or jury. All witnesses testify and evidence is presented. You may be subpoenaed to appear and the defendant may or may not testify. The defendant will be found guilty or not guilty. 

If the defendant is found guilty, any of the following may or may not occur: 

  • Defendant may be fined, made to pay court costs, sentenced to jail, or any combination of these 
  • The defendant may receive a suspended sentence, meaning the defendant would be given jail time, but would not actually serve it unless he or she committed another crime or violated a court order. 
  • The defendant may be placed on probation. 

More About Criminal Charges


Do I need to hire a lawyer? 

It is the responsibility of the County Attorney to prosecute the case against the defendant. Therefore you do not need to hire a lawyer. It is important to understand that while you may be the one who filed the criminal complaint, the County Attorney represents the Commonwealth, not the victim. 

Attending Court 

Do I need to hire a lawyer? 

It is the responsibility of the County Attorney to prosecute the case against the defendant. Therefore you do not need to hire a lawyer. It is important to understand that while you may be the one who filed the criminal complaint, the County Attorney represents the Commonwealth, not the victim. 

Dismissing Charges 

What if I want to dismiss charges? 

You are not able to dismiss charges in Fayette County. Once charges have been filed, it becomes the County Attorney’s Office’s responsibility to prosecute the case against the defendant. Because the County Attorney represents the Commonwealth, it is the decision of the County Attorney whether to prosecute or dismiss charges. 

However, the County Attorney’s Office does want to help you and will take your feelings into consideration. It is important for you to share information with them and discuss any concerns you have regarding prosecution and sentencing options. To speak with a victim advocate in the County Attorney’s Office call (859) 254-4941