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General Information on Dealing with a Police Department

Dealing with a police department can be very confusing. Officers may use terms that you do not fully understand. Many of us get our ideas about how law enforcement and the criminal justice system work from television and movies. Real life situations are very different. Many times people confuse civil and criminal issues. If there is not a criminal issue involved and the matter is civil, that is, you would need to use your private attorney to handle the matter, then the only role the Police have is to preserve the peace.

Police Officers have very specific responsibilities in enforcing laws from the Penal Code (criminal laws), the Transportation Code (traffic laws) and other codes that include criminal aspects of the law. When you have an issue that does not fall under these areas, the Officer may not be able to take any type of enforcement action and may not be able to make someone do something.

There are things that Police Departments can do and things that they cannot. Below are some frequently asked questions.

Frequently Asked Questions
About Police

Answer

I have called the Police over and over and they won’t help me. Many times people call the police about things that aren’t crimes. Things are said and done by others that may be painful and may seem like crimes, but if they don’t fit the definition of the crime then Police can’t charge or arrest the offending party. Unfortunately, the Police can’t make people behave more cordially or be more courteous.
I have problems with my neighbors and the Police won’t do anything about it. Many times disputes between neighbors are civil matters. Civil laws are those areas of the law where Police Officers have no authority to act. And those matters are usually handled in non-criminal courts. When disputes don’t involve a criminal issue, it may be necessary for the complaining party to resort to using their own attorney or, if the parties are agreeable, they can be referred, at no cost, to mediation.
My ex and I have lots of problems about child visitation and he/she won’t pay child support. Issues of child support, child custody, child visitation, and divorce are civil issues. These are things that you must handle with your private attorney.
I can’t get my friend/adult child/ex to get out of my house and the Police won’t do anything to make them leave! If your need for the person to leave is because of relationship violence, you can seek a Protective Order through your District Attorney’s Office. If you are seeking to make them leave for other reasons, you may need to pursue an eviction through your Justice of the Peace Office. You can locate more information on where to find Justice of the Peace Courts at these websites:  dentoncounty.com, dallascounty.org.
My spouse/significant other/child is mentally ill and the Police won’t make them get treatment or take them to the hospital. (HSE 573.001) People who are suffering from mental illness can’t just be “committed” like in the movies. If they are found to be a risk of harm to themselves or others at the time the Police respond, they may be arrested without a warrant and transported to a mental health facility. They may be there only a short time. You are also able to seek a Mental Health/Chemical Dependency Warrant through a County Mental Health Probate Court. For more information on these courts, visit dentoncounty.com, dallascounty.org.
My friend has my property and won’t give it back. Retrieving or dividing property is a civil matter and you should consult your attorney.
My case hasn’t been solved and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.  In most cases, after the initial Police Report, if there was no arrest, your case passes to the hands of a Detective for investigation. You may or may not hear from the Detective depending on how the investigation proceeds. The case may be filed at the County level. The District Attorney’s Office in that County then decides on how the case will be handled. And if it will proceed through the Criminal Justice system.

Last updated: 3/30/2011 12:40:39 PM