Q&A: Swearing out warrants
Posted September 15, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — After getting frustrated by a lack of action against a man who she said raped her in February, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student this week took advantage of a state law and filed criminal charges against him herself.
Delaney Robinson, a 19-year-old sophomore from Apex, went to an Orange County magistrate to swear out warrants on charges of misdemeanor sexual battery and misdemeanor assault on a female against Allen Artis, a 21-year-old junior from Marietta, Ga., who is a linebacker on the UNC football team.
Artis surrendered to authorities on Wednesday and was released on a $5,000 unsecured bond.
The case has prompted numerous questions from people, which WRAL News will try to answer.
Q: Why are people allowed to file criminal charges themselves?
A: The warrant process is actually very common in North Carolina. It's part of General Statute 15A, allowing a private citizen to go before a judge or magistrate and, under oath, accuse someone else of a crime. It's at the discretion of the magistrate to determine whether there's probable cause to file a criminal summons or arrest warrant, generally for a misdemeanor.
Q: Why do we need this kind of process?
A: Attorneys say the system often helps law enforcement that may not have the time or resources to sort out cases with limited evidence and disputes where it's one person's word against another's, whether it's a fight or trespassing or sexual battery.
Q: Can anyone file charges against anyone?
A: Generally, yes, but it's up to the magistrate to decide whether there is probable cause that a crime was committed. The accuser makes the case under oath. If it's later proven that person lied, that person can be held liable.
In this case, Artis is now charged, but the burden of proof is the same for conviction – beyond a reasonable doubt. It appears consent and incapacitation will be the key issues.
Q: Is the private citizen warrant in this case unusual?
A: The self-sworn warrant process usually forgoes a full-blown law enforcement investigation, but the Orange County District Attorney's Office and the UNC Department of Public Safety have been investigating Robinson's case for months. She wasn't satisfied with speed or direction of the investigation, however, and had the legal right to go to the magistrate.
This now forces the hand of the prosecutor to act on the misdemeanor charges. He could dismiss the case, pursue the charges, including a felony, or possibly call in a special prosecutor because of all the public attention.