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Why Can’t My Alleged Victim Drop Domestic Violence Charges?
Domestic violence cases often get started when a well-meaning neighbor or family member calls police over an argument that may not warrant a law enforcement presence. If this has happened to you, and you have been charged with domestic violence in Florida, it is understandable to be concerned. It may occur to you to try and pressure your alleged victim to drop the charges – but Florida law does not allow them to do that by themselves.
In The Hands Of The State’s Attorney
Domestic violence is an umbrella term in Florida, rather than a singular cause of action. In other words, there is not one single “domestic violence” offense; rather, any criminal offense “resulting in physical injury or death” to a specific victim will qualify. The offense must have been committed against a “family or household member” of the alleged perpetrator. The statute lists specific crimes, such as kidnapping, battery, or sexual assault, but any crime that meets the criteria will qualify.
The average person might think that the decision of whether or not to bring charges of domestic violence against them is solely at the discretion of their alleged victim. In reality, once charges have been brought, that decision is out of the victim’s hands; the state’s attorney assigned to the case is the one who decides whether or not to pursue charges, and very often, they will choose to do so. Domestic violence crimes are seen as crimes against society, and are usually pursued aggressively.
Do Not Contact The Victim
Despite the fact that the alleged victim cannot end a prosecution unilaterally, they do have some power. The statement of the victim is one of the most important pieces of evidence that a state’s attorney has in proving their case, and it can hamper – if not destroy – a prosecution if the victim chooses not to cooperate with the investigation. There may be consequences if the victim fails to cooperate, such as fines, but they still have the right to make that choice.
Even if you are certain that your alleged victim will drop the charges, it is crucial that you not contact them during the legal process. Trying to pressure or threaten the victim into doing what you want them to do reflects incredibly poorly on you, even if you are not guilty of the initial alleged domestic violence offense. In extreme cases, you may even be charged with witness tampering, which is a felony, even if the underlying offense was a misdemeanor.
Contact A West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Attorney
Being charged with a domestic violence offense can be terrifying, particularly if you lacked any intent to harm the alleged victim. However, it is imperative to understand the role of the victim within the legal process, and to know which options are available to you moving forward. A West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney from Perlet & Shiner, P.A. can protect your rights and try to give you the best possible chance at vindication. Call our office today to speak to an attorney.