Domestic violence is a crime with many common misconceptions. One is that the victim can choose to drop the charges against the alleged attacker after calling the police. This is not the case. Once someone contacts law enforcement about domestic violence, it becomes the city’s decision to prosecute, regardless of the wishes of the victim. If the city has enough evidence, it may decide to prosecute even if the victim calls to drop the charges.
Domestic violence situations are often tense, chaotic, emotional, and confusing. This can lead to spouses calling the police when they do not actually mean to accuse someone of domestic violence. Some people call the police to threaten or intimidate the alleged attacker, while others do so out of anger or spite. Some victims may have actually suffered a form of domestic abuse, but do not wish to see their spouse get into trouble.
No matter what reason the victim has for regretting or rescinding his or her accusation, once the victim calls the police, the matter is out of the victim’s hands. Once police are involved, the victim cannot dismiss domestic violence charges. The victim can call and express his or her wishes not to press charges, but that is the extent of the victim’s abilities. It is ultimately up to the prosecution to decide whether to charge the assailant with domestic violence based on the available evidence or circumstances.
The only party that can drop domestic violence charges is the district attorney. The district attorney represents the state, and the only party with the power to dismiss domestic violence allegations at the court level. Although it is police officers that respond to the call, they file reports to the district attorney. Then, the state government is in charge of either pressing or dropping the charges. Victims can, however, take certain actions to increase the likelihood of the state dismissing the case.
If you or a loved one wishes to rescind a domestic violence charge in California, you must first call the officer in charge of your case and explain that you do not wish to press charges against the defendant. Then, you may file an affidavit of non-prosecution. This is a legal document in which the alleged victim signs a statement that explicitly requests the state to drop pending charges. It is a letter the victim can obtain from a witness coordinator.
Although the affidavit does not guarantee case dismissal, it could sway the court’s decision. The criminal courts seek justice for victims. If the victim does not wish to press charges against the alleged assailant, and files an affidavit requesting the state to dismiss the case, it is more likely that the courts will not spend time, money, or energy pursuing the case. A defense attorney can help you obtain an affidavit of non-prosecution to help your case as a defendant.
Even in cases in which the district attorney decides not to press charges, the state may require the defendant to commit penance in other ways. The defendant may have to attend relationship counseling or anger management courses, for example, to help prevent domestic violence disputes in the future. The victim may also need to attend domestic violence awareness programs. Most affidavits also come with specific requirements, such as the victim losing the right to re-file the charges if the victim changes his or her mind.
Hiring an attorney can help a victim explain why he or she wants to drop the charges, as well as make it easier to file an affidavit of non-prosecution. Contact the Law Offices of Graham D. Donath, APC for domestic violence counseling. Our Riverside criminal defense attorneys can help you and your family work through this difficult time.