What Happens When a Domestic Violence Victim Doesn’t Want to Press Charges?

by Ambrosio Rodriguez | May 26, 2021 | Domestic Violence

Domestic violence charges involve a victim who was allegedly harmed or injured by the defendant. In many cases, it is the victim who contacts the police to report the domestic violence.

The case against the defendant may rely on the testimony of the victim. Moreover, the prosecutor may have other evidence, such as medical records, photographs of injuries, police reports, and testimony from other witnesses. However, the testimony from the victim is often the most compelling evidence in a domestic violence case.

It seems like a victim could decline to press charges for domestic violence if they change their mind. However, that is not the case. Once a victim calls the police or someone else calls the police to report domestic violence, the matter is out of the victim’s hand.

If law enforcement officers believe a crime was committed, they will arrest the alleged offender, regardless of whether the victim wants to press charges.

Can a Victim Drop Domestic Violence Charges?

The victim may contact the prosecutor’s office to inform them that they do not wish to press charges. However, that is the extent of the victim’s power over domestic violence charges. Only the prosecutor can decide whether to drop the charges.

A judge may dismiss the charges if there is insufficient evidence or inadequate probable cause. However, that does not have anything to do with the victim’s desire for the charges. Again, once law enforcement and the judicial system are involved in a case, the victim does not have the right to drop the charges or decline to press domestic violence charges.

How Does the State Handle a Victim Who Does Not Cooperate?

As stated above, some domestic violence cases could depend heavily on the testimony of a victim. If the victim refuses to cooperate, the prosecutor could choose to drop the charge. However, that is not always the case.

A prosecutor could proceed with the criminal case without the victim’s cooperation. If the alleged defendant physically injured the victim, the prosecutor may believe that going forward with the criminal case is in the public’s best interest. Taking a violent criminal off the street could outweigh the victim’s desire to drop the charges.

If a victim refuses to testify in court, the prosecutor can subpoena the victim. If the victim ignores the subpoena, the prosecutor could file a motion with the court requesting a bench warrant for the victim’s arrest. The court may hold the victim in contempt of court if the victim refuses to appear and testify at trial.

Victims who change their testimony may be treated as hostile witnesses. The prosecutor could use the 911 call and statements made to police officers to attack the victim’s testimony on the stand.

Can the Witness Drop a Restraining Order?

Orders of protection or restraining orders are different from domestic violence arrests. Therefore, a victim could request that the court revoke an order of protection or protective order. However, if a criminal matter is pending, orders in the criminal case would remain in effect.

For example, if the judge placed conditions on the defendant’s release, such as staying away from the alleged victim, the defendant must abide by that order. Violating the order could result in going back to jail until trial.

Are There Collateral Consequences for a Domestic Violence Charge?

Domestic violence charges are a serious criminal offense. A guilty verdict could have numerous consequences. You could be fined and serve time in prison.

You will have a criminal record, which could impact decisions related to career choices and higher education. You might be unable to qualify for some government programs. It could be difficult to find a place to live. Your gun rights may also be restricted.

If you are involved in a custody dispute, a record of domestic violence could result in sole custody for the other parent. In some cases, your visitation rights might be restricted, or the judge may order supervised visitation.

What Should I Do if I Am Charged with Domestic Violence in California?

If you are accused or arrested on domestic violence charges, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. Do not resist arrest, but also avoid answering questions or making a statement. Exercise your right to remain silent except for stating that you want a lawyer.

Do not contact the alleged victim, including through the victim’s friends, family members, and co-workers. Obey all conditions of your release if the judge grants bond. Stay as far away from the alleged victim as possible.

Write down as much information about the incident as you can remember, including any witnesses’ names and contact information. If the incident was a continuation of an argument or a problem with the victim, print all text messages, emails, and other written communication between you and the victim. Give all of this information to your attorney.

Some individuals use false allegations of domestic violence as weapons. They may accuse their partner of domestic violence to get an advantage during a divorce or custody battle. The false allegations could be a form of revenge for a bad breakup.

Whatever the reason might be, protect yourself by contacting an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options for defending domestic violence charges. You could have one or more defenses to the charges, including claiming self-defense.

Last Updated on May 26, 2021