A charge is a written statement of a complaint brought against an accused person by the state in a court of law. These are the facts that a person is alleged to have done and the result of which makes the person to be taken to court. A charge contains two parts:
- A statement of the law.
This usually states the law and the particulars of the section of the law which has been allegedly broken. This is because when a person is alleged to have committed an offence, there is a provision of the law which has been breached. If there is no statement of law, then there can be no crime that has been committed, meaning no law has been broken.
- Particulars of the offence
This section contains the date and place where the offence is alleged to have been committed, the facts of the charge and the identity of the complainant and that of the accused person.
- Must be drafted in simple ordinary language, avoiding technical terms so that the accused person can understand what they are charged with.
- Where an accused person is charged with more than one offence in a trial, each offence, must be set out in a separate paragraph which in law is known as count.
- No other counts should be joined to a count that carries a penalty of death like murder.
- There is no limitation of time between the time in which the offence was committed and when the complaint arose. Howeever, it is prudent that the complaint be made immediately so that the prosecution can commence without delay. Often, this will be useful in ensuring that valuable evidence, both for the prosecution and the defence is not lost because of the lapse of time.
The purpose of the charge is to inform the accused person of the nature and the particulars of the offence with which he/she is charged with so as to enable the accused person prepare for his/ her defence.