Can a victim drop criminal charges?

Happy Friday everybody. Hope you’re having a great week and gearing up for another beautiful weekend here in North Texas or wherever you’re watching this from. Today, I want to talk to you a little bit about an issue that comes up a whole lot when I’m dealing with these assault family violence or domestic dispute type criminal cases. And that is what happens when the victim or the alleged victim in one of those cases decides they want to drop the charges? Okay. So this is an issue that there’s a whole lot of misconceptions about because most folks think that if it’s a case where somebody was victimized, if the victim comes forward and says, please drop the charges, then that’s the end of it. The case goes away. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. So typically what happens is in a case where I’m representing somebody that has been accused of some type of assault of offense or an assault family violence and the victim or the alleged victim comes forward, and either tells me it never happened, or I don’t want to pursue charges or whatever the case may be.

The first thing that it’s important for you to do if you’re representing that accused person, is make sure the victim knows that they have the right to contact an attorney to talk about this. Okay. It’s very, very important that you explain that to them. And you document that you’re explaining that to them. Most of the times I tell them one, two, even like three or four times, look, not only do you have the right, but I think it’s probably a good idea that you consult with an attorney because I want somebody that can protect you. I can’t. My job is to protect the client, not to protect you. So that’s number one, is make sure you tell them that.

The second thing that happens is they generally sign what’s called an affidavit of non-prosecution. It’s a piece of paper that doesn’t necessarily say this offense didn’t occur. It can, if they want it drafted that way. But it generally just says, I don’t want charges to be brought forward any further. I don’t want to participate in the prosecution anymore, and I will not hold the district attorney or any law enforcement agency liable for the dropping of this matter. Okay. That affidavit generally gets turned into either the prosecutor or the city attorney, whoever is prosecuting the case. And then they get to decide what to do with it from there. Sometimes that’s enough to convince them to drop the case. However, if the prosecutor feels that they have enough evidence to bring and to prosecute the case without the cooperation of the witnesses testimony or the victim’s testimony, then they still can, and generally will do that.

I’ve got several cases right now where the victim has come forward and said, I’m not going to be at trial. I don’t want to be at trial. I don’t want to testify. I don’t want you to prosecute. I want this all to be done. And the district attorney says, that’s all fine and well. We’re going to go to trial and we’re going to present our case without the victim’s testimony. So that is certainly something that is in their right to do and something that they do pretty regularly. So what that means is this idea that if the victim drops the charges, I’m in the clear, that’s not how it works. Okay. That’s not what that means. And so you still need an attorney to very zealously advocate on your behalf and show the prosecutor why they would fail at trial without that victim’s testimony in order to get your case dismissed. As always, if you have any questions about this or anything else, feel free to reach out to me. I’m happy to discuss them with you.

Obviously on these videos, I’m just scratching the surface of a lot of these issues. So there’s a lot more nuance and a lot more little rabbit trails that we can go down if we have a more lengthy conversation. But I’m trying to keep these videos under five minutes if I can just because I know you want to enjoy your Friday so. But if there’s anything specific that you want to ask me or talk about, please feel free to shoot me an email, give me a call. I’m happy to talk to you at that point at more length, with whatever help you need. Thanks everybody. Hope you have a great weekend. And we’ll see you next week.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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