It is very common for clients, or the family of a client, to believe that a criminal charge-usually assault, domestic violence, violation of a protection order, or the like-will be dismissed because “the victim wants to drop the charges.” They believe that because the alleged victim called 911, or told the police that a crime happened, that the alleged victim herself controls whether the case will be prosecuted.
But this commonly-held belief is wrong.
An officer files criminal charges against a suspect based on “probable cause.” In short, based on the officer’s training and experience, the officer collected enough testimony and/or evidence to believe a crime occurred. Probable cause is a significantly lower standard than the standard of proof required at trial called “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Once an officer files charges against a suspect based on probable cause, the case is handed over to the prosecutor’s office. The power to dismiss the case now rests solely with the prosecutor-not the charging officer or the accuser.
The prosecutor will likely listen to input from the charging officer and alleged victim, but the prosecutor is not required to dismiss a case simply because the accuser doesn’t want the defendant to get in trouble, or because the accuser now has second thoughts about calling 911. The alleged victim is not the prosecutor’s client and, therefore, the accuser’s desires and concerns do not affect the State’s interest in protecting society from crime and prosecuting criminal defendants.
Defendants that believe their accusers are amenable to a reduction, diversion program, or a dismissal should speak with an attorney that is familiar with the court and prosecutor that will be handling the case. Appearing in court without representation and telling the court “that the victim wants to drop the charges” will not result in your desired outcome of a reduction, diversion, or dismissal in your case.
We have handled numerous domestic violence and assault cases throughout southern Ohio and successfully achieved dismissals, diversion, and not guilty verdicts for many of our clients. We are always happy to speak with an accuser and will do everything in our client’s best interest throughout the case.