If you work in the criminal law field you will come across people on a weekly basis who have been victims of a crime who now want to “drop the charges” and end the criminal case. In some cases it is because they did not understand how serious calling the police would be, and in other cases they do not really have any desire to see the person punished. For whatever reason many victims of a crime feel like they should be in control of whether or not charges “are pressed” or are dropped.
Unfortunately, while the victim’s opinion is certainly taken into consideration, in most areas the final ability to pursue charges or prosecute the crime rests with the local prosecutor. Once a court case exists and charges are moving forward the desire of the victim to stop the case does not mean the process will. Victims may consult with a criminal defense attorney and consider hiring someone to represent their interests. Victims should also be aware to never do anything that will hurt the defendant’s case while charges are pending. For example, if there is a restraining order in place but a victim and defendant have decided to make up and begin talking until the order is lawfully lifted, the victim could get the defendant in more trouble by encouraging contact.
Many people see on TV shows like Law & Order discussions about the victim “pressing charges”, but in the real world the decision does not rest with the victim. Any time the police come involved with the case they have the right to carry out their investigation to the end and the local prosecutor will make a prosecution decision based on their view of the interests of the public, not the victim alone.
This blog was written by Colin McCallin a criminal lawyer in Denver, Colorado. He is a partner in the firm Hebets & McCallin, P.C. and has years of experience both prosecuting and defending criminal cases and dealing with victims in each of these cases.