Accusatory Stage Law and Legal Definition

Accusatory stage is a stage in a criminal proceeding when the officers have arrested the suspect and have undertaken a process of interrogation that lends itself to eliciting incriminating statements. Hence, it occurs after arrest and once the interrogation begins. Although an arrest ordinarily signals the advent of the accusatory stage, the fact of an arrest is not essential to the maturing of that stage. Rather, in determining whether such stage has been reached, all of the circumstances must be considered, including such factors as the evidence of guilt in the possession of the police, the pressures short of arrest which the police exert to detain the suspect, and other factors which may subject the suspect to unusual pressures.

In People v. Ford, 234 Cal. App. 2d 480 (Cal. Ct. App. 1965), the court observed that “The accusatory stage is reached when two conditions have been met, (1) the investigation is focused on a particular suspect who has been arrested, and (2) the officers have undertaken a process of interrogations whose purpose is to get a confession. The accusatory stage does not begin with the arrest alone. Although in most cases the process of interrogations following an arrest will so lend itself, it does not necessarily do so. Beyond the point of arrest the police must have entered upon a process of interrogations that lends itself to eliciting incriminating statements before the proceedings can be said to have reached the accusatory stage. The test for determining when this stage has been reached does not depend upon the actual intent or subjective purpose of the police in undertaking the interrogations, but rather on the objective evidence from which the purpose of the interrogation may be determined.”