How do I get charges of domestic violence dropped?

UPDATED: Jul 13, 2023Fact Checked

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Jeffrey Johnson

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 13, 2023

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UPDATED: Jul 13, 2023Fact Checked

The prosecutor, not the alleged victim of the domestic abuse, makes the call whether to dismiss charges of domestic violence, but may listen to the alleged victim. If the alleged victim asks the prosecutor to dismiss the charges, the prosecutor might do so.

A criminal case has a very significant difference from a civil lawsuit: in a criminal case, the alleged victim is NOT in charge of the case and does not decide whether to bring it, whether to drop or dismiss it, etc. Rather, the prosecutor’s office is in charge of the case. That’s why these cases are titled “State vs. Defendant’s Name,” because the “state” or government is the party bringing the case. The alleged victim is only a witness—granted, an important one—generally called the “complaining witness.”

This is important because it means that the only person who could voluntarily dismiss or drop the case is the prosecutor. To get the case dismissed, he or she would have to agree to do so. The prosecutor can bring the case regardless of what anyone, including the alleged victim, wants. That said, a significant factor in whether the prosecutor will dismiss is what the alleged victim wants. Prosecutors will often choose to respect the wishes of the victim in this regard. Also, it can be difficult to win a case if the main witness, the victim, will not cooperate. So if the alleged victim wishes the charges dropped, while it’s not at all certain that will happen, there is a reasonable chance they will be.

The prosecutor will look to all the factors or circumstances in deciding what to do. The more serious the violence (e.g., the worse the injuries), the less likely they are to dismiss. If there were other witnesses (so the prosecutor does not need to rely on the alleged victim), they are less likely to dismiss. If there is a history of domestic violence complaints, that also makes dismissal less likely. And, of course, if there was any attempt to harass or intimidate the complaining witness into recanting or withdrawing his/her allegations, that would not only cause the case to not be dismissed, but additional charges for the harassment, etc. might well be brought.

Assuming the case is not voluntarily dismissed, the only other way for the charges to be dropped would be if some significant procedural error were committed. For example, arresting someone without reading them their rights, if they then gave a confession which was key; performing an illegal search; etc. If the accused feels that may have been the case, a consultation with a criminal defense attorney, who understands what is and is not proper in this context, is called for.

Case Studies: Getting Charges of Domestic Violence Dropped

Case Study 1: Influencing the Prosecutor

Emily found herself in a challenging situation when she was wrongly accused of domestic violence by her former partner. As the case progressed, Emily reached out to the prosecutor, providing evidence of her innocence and urging them to reconsider pursuing the charges. Emily’s strong presentation and compelling evidence convinced the prosecutor to review the case further. After a thorough evaluation, the prosecutor decided to drop the charges, acknowledging the lack of substantial evidence against Emily.

Case Study 2: The Victim’s Influence 

Mark was accused of domestic violence by his spouse during a heated argument. However, his spouse later realized the gravity of the situation and wanted to withdraw the charges. Mark’s spouse contacted the prosecutor, explaining the circumstances and expressing a desire for the charges to be dropped. The prosecutor carefully considered the spouse’s request, conducted additional investigations, and ultimately decided to dismiss the charges due to the lack of cooperation from the alleged victim.

Case Study 3: Procedural Errors 

Sarah found herself facing charges of domestic violence after a neighbor misinterpreted a loud argument. As the case progressed, Sarah’s defense attorney discovered significant procedural errors during her arrest and subsequent questioning by law enforcement. The attorney brought these errors to the attention of the prosecutor, highlighting their potential impact on the case’s validity. Recognizing the potential for a violation of Sarah’s rights, the prosecutor dropped the charges, realizing the weak foundation upon which they were based.

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Jeffrey Johnson

Insurance Lawyer

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Insurance Lawyer

Mary Martin

Published Legal Expert

Mary Martin has been a legal writer and editor for over 20 years, responsible for ensuring that content is straightforward, correct, and helpful for the consumer. In addition, she worked on writing monthly newsletter columns for media, lawyers, and consumers. Ms. Martin also has experience with internal staff and HR operations. Mary was employed for almost 30 years by the nationwide legal publi...

Published Legal Expert

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

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