People who are charged with a crime sometimes think they can persuade the alleged victim to drop the charge. In reality, a crime victim cannot drop a criminal charge, and trying to persuade that person to do so carries the risk that new criminal charges will be filed. Click here for more about dropping domestic violence charges specifically.
Dropping the Charge
Criminal charges are brought by the State of California. A prosecutor represents the government in filing a criminal charge. Once the charge is filed, only a prosecutor can “drop” it. A judge can dismiss the charge for various reasons, and a jury can find the accused not guilty, but only a prosecutor can drop the charge before the case goes to court.
A prosecutor may or may not listen to an accuser who asks the prosecutor to drop the charge. More often than not, the prosecutor will suspect that the accuser is being pressured to make that request. The prosecutor may assign a police detective or a staff member who works with victims to determine why the accuser is asking for charges to be dropped. If that person decides that the accuser was threatened or pressured by the accused, new criminal charges for the accused will be on the horizon.
Even if no criminal charge has yet been filed, the decision to file is the prosecutor’s, not the accuser’s. When the accuser asks the prosecutor not to file charges, that request may trigger an investigation that will come back to haunt the accused.
Intimidating a Victim
In California, the crime of “intimidating a victim” occurs when someone attempts to prevent a crime victim from:
- reporting a crime,
- asking for a crime to be prosecuted,
- cooperating with the prosecution of a crime, or
- testifying at trial.
The crime is a felony when it is accompanied by an express or implied threat of violence. Since an “implied threat” is often a matter of perception, saying anything at all to an accuser might result in a felony charge of intimidating a crime victim.
In addition, after a charge is filed, courts often impose a “no contact” order on the accused as a condition of bond. Violating that order by asking the accuser to drop the charge might result in a new charge of bail jumping.
Avoiding New Criminal Charges
Accusers may have many reasons to make false accusations. They may believe they can gain an advantage by accusing someone of a crime that the person did not commit. Sometimes people blow an argument out of proportion or misperceive an innocent gesture as a threat. Sometimes they are goaded by drama-loving friends to report a crime that never happened.
When accusers regret their accusations, they are free to contact the prosecutor on their own initiative. In addition, they are free to discuss the accusation with the accused’s lawyer or to obtain a lawyer of their own. If they give a voluntary statement that exonerates the accused, the accused’s lawyer may be able to persuade the prosecutor to drop the charges. Using a criminal defense lawyer as an intermediary is the best protection against new criminal charges when the accused doesn’t want the accuser to pursue unfounded criminal charges.