Victim Dropping Charges

A question I get asked often after someone is arrested, especially in an assault/family context, is..."Can the victim drop the charges?" I get asked this question incredibly often - and the answer is unequivocally NO. Once the police are called to a domestic disturbance, and an arrest has been made - the victim simply does not have the power to call up the police officer who made the arrest, or a detective possibly investigating the case, or someone from the DA's office - requesting that all charges be dropped or dismissed against whom the charges were filed.

After an arrest has been made, it is entirely out of the victim's hands as to what will happen in court. This can be a frustrating proposition - after all, they are the ones who made the initial call for the arrest, right? They should have the authority, then, to dictate what happens to the person for whom they made the original complaint? Right? Wrong.

Actually, when victims constantly contact authorities to get charges dropped, it can actually lead to a worse result. Why? Often - if a victim persists in trying to get charges dropped against their loved one - prosecutors may go into a "Reactive" mode, or into a "Protective" role, because they believe the person is being pressured into doing this for some reason.

The reasons could vary ...Maybe they don't want to see their spouse go to jail, maybe the spouse is pressuring them to make the call to the DA's office in hopes the charges will be dropped, and they won't have to go to court, go to trial, be placed on probation, or in some cases go to jail or prison. The logic is it could be the case where a battered spouse testifies to help get their loved one out of trouble, only to be harmed perhaps worse in the future. In essence, they are attempting to protect the battered spouse against themselves.

Especially in a family violence case, the state can prosecute a defendant, and possibly obtain a conviction, with or without the assistance and/or wishes of the alleged complaining witness. Either way, often the DA's go into a reactive, or a protective mode, to protect the battered spouse, and not only will the charges NOT be dropped, the case may be prosecuted more vigorously against the individual than if the victim had not tried to drop the charges in the first place.

Charges of domestic violence recently have been on the rise, some would say with a dramatic increase. Some attribute this to the economy, others to the media and their exposure of famous individuals who are accused of assaulting a spouse or loved one. Often the situation is complicated because a prosecutor may threaten to file making a false police report to the police if their testimony at trial differs than what was initially alleged. This scenario leads to much speculation and difficult as to what can be predicted at trial.

The net of this is - simply put, regardless of the type of case, the victim DOES NOT have the power, or the authority, to make the decision to drop or to dismiss any pending charges. It is out of their hands, and usually within the sole discretion of whatever DAfc office is handling the matter.