Pennsylvania law allows citizens to file private criminal complaints. These complaints are usually filed on minor charges such as harassment and the receipt of a bad check. Erie County Detectives process approximately 4,000 private criminal complaints in a given year. After receiving the complaint filed at a District Court Office and upon showing probable cause that an offense has been committed, the complaint is approved by an Assistant District Attorney and sent back to the District Judge to schedule a hearing. In some cases, no probable cause exists to make a charge and the complaints are denied for further processing.
All complaints need to be filed at the District Justice Office.