Can a Domestic Violence Victim Drop the Charges?
Oct. 31, 2022
Domestic violence accusations and charges represent severe threats to the defendant's freedom, reputation, and future. Naturally, this leads many individuals accused of domestic assault to seek out methods to reduce or eliminate their charges.
Once the police have gotten involved, pursuing your domestic violence matter is entirely at their discretion. Officers who uncover evidence of a crime are likely to pass the incident report, statements, witness accounts, and any other evidence to the local prosecutor for consideration.
This means that despite regularly appearing in pop-culture legal dramas, victims of domestic violence cannot drop the charges or prevent the case from proceeding on their own. Criminal charges are between the defendant and the state, which means only the state can decide to drop the case. Therefore, it is vital to contact me at The Summary Law Firm for strong and knowledgeable representation.
As a criminal defense attorney, I have the practice and comprehensive skills to help you through challenging times after being charged with domestic violence. I can help build a strong defense and direct you toward a brighter future. I proudly serve clients in St. Louis, throughout St. Charles, St. Louis County, St. Clair County, Illinois and Madison County, Illinois.
Can the Victim Refuse to Testify?
While victims can't get domestic violence charges dropped outright, they can refuse to cooperate with investigators or testify during their cases. However, a victim rejecting their statement documenting the abuse or refusing to cooperate with the court may not lead to dropped charges.
Suppose investigators and prosecutors feel they have enough physical, digital, eyewitness, or recorded evidence to win a conviction without the victim's testimony. In that case, they may push forward with the domestic violence charges.
Prosecutors will also generally be less likely to drop domestic violence charges after a victim refuses to testify if the defendant has a violent criminal record. If the accused has a history of assault, battery, or domestic violence that would be permissible to present to jurors, they may continue pursuing the case.
Prosecutors can also subpoena domestic violence victims in some cases, forcing them to testify (however doing so can be risky for the prosecutor since putting a hostile or uncooperative witness on the stand can hurt their case).
It's important to note that spouses that are called to testify against their husband or wife can refuse to testify if doing so would reveal private and privileged communications. This protection is called spousal testimonial privilege.
In some cases, spousal testimonial privilege may not apply - particularly when the case involves domestic violence between legal partners.
Reasons Charges May Be Dropped if Proven
While victims may be unable to get domestic violence charges dropped after they've been filed, there are a few strategies defendants can explore to get the charges dropped by the court.
The most common reasons domestic violence charges get dropped include self-defense, false accusations, or proving no intention of causing harm. Taking a closer look at each of these popular domestic violence defenses can help individuals protect their rights when falsely accused.
Self-defense arguments hinge on two essential requirements. First, the defendant must not have instigated the violence and only engaged with the plaintiff in response to their attack.
Secondly, the use of force by the defendant in response to the plaintiff's attack must have been reasonably proportionate to the violence perpetrated by the plaintiff. The courts are less likely to support your self-defense claim if, for example, the defendant responded to verbal harassment and threats with physical violence that caused severe injuries.
Self-defense can be hard to prove in domestic violence cases, so gathering a solid portfolio of eyewitness accounts and incident report statements that reflect non-aggression during the conflict can be very useful.
Domestic violence charges may also be dropped if investigators, prosecutors, or the criminal defense attorney uncover evidence that proves the alleged victim falsely accused the defendant.
If evidence emerges that starkly contradicts key details or demonstrates clear falsehoods in the victim's story, the prosecutor may elect to drop the charges and case. False accusation defenses typically succeed more often when the defendant doesn't have a prior criminal record of domestic violence or other violent crimes.
Domestic violence charges may also be dropped if evidence indicates the injuries that sparked the case were caused by accident on the part of the defendant. This defense revolves around proving that the defendant did not knowingly commit an act with the intention of harming the victim.
Accidents, actions, and events that could not have reasonably been expected to instill fear or cause injuries to the plaintiff may lead to dropped charges after being presented to the court.
Reach Out to The Summary Law Firm
Dealing with a domestic violence case is stressful and emotionally draining for everyone involved. I'm prepared to put my 17 years of legal experience to work for you, providing reliable counsel and guidance as we navigate the complex domestic violence court process. Contact my office, The Summary Law Firm, today if you're dealing with legal issues related to domestic violence around St. Louis or St. Charles county, Missouri or St. Clair County or Madison County, Illinois, to discuss your case.