Can I be arrested for assault if the victim didn’t press charges at the scene of the crimeand there are no witnesses?

UPDATED: Sep 17, 2011

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Can I be arrested for assault if the victim didn’t press charges at the scene of the crimeand there are no witnesses?

I was at a bar with a friend and for some reason we went outside. According to the bartender (who heard this from someone else at the bar) my friend and I were “fighting” and then rolling around on the floor. The cops broke up the “fight” but no further action was taken. She told me today that her father was going to press charges against me unless I agreed to pay him $10,000 for the dental damages alone done to her. The precinct didn’t report the incident and no one that was there that night can be contacted. Can I actually be taken to jail if it is her word against mine??

Asked on September 17, 2011 under Criminal Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Yes, one person's testimony--that of the alleged victim, also called the "complaining" witness--can be enough to result in charges, even a conviction, especially if there is other corroborating evidence. For example: say that she suffered broken or knocked out teeth; that suggests a fight. If coupled by believable testimony from her, that can be enough.

Two other issues: first, it is improper to use the threat of criminal prosecution to try to get monetary compensation; the two are supposed to be separate. Using the threat of pressing charges unless given money can itself be a violation of the law.

Second, though, if you did damage her teeth in a fight, you easily could be liable for the cost of repairing them (and possibly other damages, too)--i.e. you could be sued for the money.

From what you write, it may be worthwhile consulting with an attorney--and if not now, then definitely if any legal action, either criminal or civil, is taken.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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