What if the victim wants to drop the charges, but the prosecutor won’t do it?
Consider the following scenario: the defendant seriously injured his spouse by punching, kicking, or choking her. The spouse or someone she knows (family, friends, neighbors, etc.) has reported the incident to the police. The cops show up and begin gathering evidence in preparation for a domestic violence charge against the defendant
The situation is tumultuous when the spouse doesn’t want to be abused, but she also doesn’t want to see the defendant in trouble with the law. Many battered spouses feel compelled to protect their abuser. Does the victim has the authority to have domestic violence charges dropped against her.
The answer is “no”. The victim has no authority to have a domestic violence charge dropped once filed with the prosecutor’s office. Domestic violence is a serious act. The criminal justice system is frequently misunderstood. The majority of people believe that the victims of crime bring the charges. This is incorrect. The state governs offenses, and the state, not the victim, is the one who files criminal charges.
In other words, a victim can’t cancel the charge because she didn’t issue it. As a result, the state (specifically, the prosecutor’s office) will decide whether to pursue the case or dismiss the domestic violence charges. Remember that, even if the victim isn’t the one who files the criminal charges, she will play an important role as the case progresses.
Changing the Statement
Victims frequently want to change or recant their statements to police and investigators, even though they can’t drop domestic violence charges. Recanting means retracting a previous statement. The victim may, for example, have told police that her spouse was abusing her but later wish to retract that statement. Recanting is usually not a good idea unless the victim actually lied to authorities. Recanting will not necessarily result in the state dropping the case. Furthermore, if the victim recants, he/she may face criminal charges for providing false information to law enforcement and the court. If a defendant attempts to influence the victim in any way to change his or her statement, then he can be charged with witness tampering, which is a felony.
Who Has the Authority to Drop (or Not Drop) Criminal Charges?
In civil lawsuits, which can occasionally arise from these situations, the attorney files a lawsuit on behalf of the victim against the criminal defendant. As a result, the victim has the authority to tell his lawyer whether or not to pursue the civil action after it has been filed. She the option of dropping it. This is true, for example, in the case of a civil restraining order.
In criminal cases, however, the state, the federal government, or both bring their claims against the defendant through their prosecutors. They are the ones who have the right to either dismiss or prosecute the case. All the victim can do is ask the prosecutor to “drop the charges.”
The Victim Entitled to Input
The victim isn’t completely powerless, even if she doesn’t have the authority to drop charges. She can ask the state or federal prosecutor to dismiss the charges, but they are not obligated to do so. A good prosecutor will usually consider the victims’ wishes when determining the appropriate punishment, but they will make the final decision.
The victim can speak with the prosecutor and request that the charges be dropped, explaining her reasoning. This situation can get complicated. Suppose the victim makes statements that contradict what she originally told police. In that case, the victim could face a charge of false statement to an officer.
Also, if a victim lied to the police and someone is about to be punished for something they DID NOT do, they are faced with a difficult decision. The question is whether to tell the truth, or not to tell the truth.
That is why it sometimes it makes sense for the victim to have a criminal defense attorney by her side. To protect her interests as much as possible while avoiding an injustice. However, she should make sure to seek advice from a lawyer who isn’t representing the accused. It would be a conflict of interest for the same lawyer to defend the accused criminal while also pursuing the victim’s request to have the charges dropped.
In the end, it is up to the prosecuting attorney to decide whether or not the charges in the case should be dropped. The defendant has the highest chance of winning if he works with an experienced New Hampshire criminal defense lawyer.