Once there has been a domestic violence arrest between intimate partners, and the dust settles over the coming weeks, there may be circumstances in which the case should be dropped in your opinion and the alleged victim’s view.
Unfortunately, unlike in a civil lawsuit, the victim does not always have the easy option of “dropping charges.” Filing criminal charges and dismissing criminal charges still lies in the hands of the prosecutor.
So how exactly can you get the domestic violence charges against you dropped, or at least, greatly reduced?
Domestic violence charges are tough to prove in court, and especially tough if they need to go to trial. There are numerous reasons why a prosecutor will want to or have to drop charges against a defendant
In a lot of cases, by the time trial comes around, the defendant and victim have reconciled. Though a prosecutor can continue to go forward with charges when this is the case, it makes the case much harder to prove. Additionally, the question comes to mind if the case is still “in the interest of justice” to pursue, once the victim and defendant have reconciled.
Additionally, if the prosecutor does choose to continue with the charges, they may face another hardship in the face of victim testimony. Oftentimes, when the victim and defendant have reconciled, the victim no longer wants to testify in court against the defendant. This makes it almost impossible for the prosecutor to prove their case, without their “star witness” (i.e. the victim).
The short answer is no; the victim does not and cannot make the decision of whether to charge the defendant or not. Most people believe that victims of crimes issue the charges. This is incorrect. Crimes are governed by the State, and it's the State that issues criminal charges, not the victim.
Though the victim does not make the ultimate decision on whether to drop the charges or not, there are things he/she can do to try and persuade the prosecutor to dismiss the charges. These things are listed above.
Speaking with the prosecutor or a family law attorney may help the victim in his/her quest to get the charges dismissed or reduced.
Even if these hardships don’t result in the charges being dismissed, it may result in the charges being greatly reduced. This too can be very beneficial to the alleged defendant, and it is something to discuss with an experienced criminal attorney.
The charges may also be reduced for reasons unrelated to the victim and his/her cooperation with the prosecution.
Oftentimes, domestic violence convictions come with serious collateral consequences in the form of suspended professional licenses and rights being taken away. If this is the case, criminal defense attorneys can sometimes speak with the prosecutor to reach a plea bargain or have the defendant enter a diversion program.
The plea bargains often involve pleading to a lesser charge that, though it includes penalties, won’t result in the loss of a professional license.
Diversion programs are often recommended for first time offenders. Typically, the defendant would enter the program without pleading to any charge, then upon a successful completion of the program, the charges are dismissed. This is often a very favorable outcome for both sides.
It is common for experienced and successful domestic violence defense attorneys to have been prosecutors or police officers earlier in their careers. This is extremely helpful when representing someone charged with a crime. Criminal attorneys tend to have decades of experience investigating and trying cases of the alleged abuse. They have seen all the maneuvers used by prosecutors, and they know all the possible arguments that can be made.
Criminal defense attorneys also understand how judges decide when to issue a restraining order and how they are used. They also understand what punishment is merited and when punishments can be reduced for various circumstances in the defendant’s favor.
When a criminal defense attorney gets involved early in a case it is possible to persuade the prosecutor not to file charges. If charges have already been filed, criminal defense attorneys can negotiate a plea bargain that allows their client to avoid the negative consequences of a domestic abuse conviction.
It is always advised to retain a criminal defense attorney when facing criminal charges. The criminal justice system is complicated, and it can be scary. Having someone on your side, that understands the system inside and out is always in your best interest.