Throughout this week we have been reviewing the journey of accusatory instruments which commence criminal cases. We have retraced their movements from the complainants whose accusation inspires their creation through the courts who validate the structure of their content to the attorneys who discredit them or modify them to more accurately represent the facts. While following this journey has revealed the function of what an accusatory instrument does, we now shift our attention to how and why an accusatory instrument does those things by reviewing the form and content prescribed in CPL § 100.15.
Accusations are not lightly taken because they are backed by the full force of the Criminal Justice system. Investigators, Police, Prisons, Attorneys, Judges, and Juries are all called into service to act upon them. CPL § 100.15 is constructed with these service-members in mind, as to guarantee that their services are not wasted on baseless rumors and hearsay. As such, the initiate of an accusation – the complainant – is required to possess personal knowledge, information, or belief of the facts contained in the accusation.
CPL § 100.15 subsection 1 requires that each instrument contain the name of the court in which it is filed, a proper title, and the complainant’s signature. In addition, “each instrument must contain an accusatory part and a factual part.”