How Can I Drop Charges in a Domestic Violence Case?
In cases where a person has filed a police report against someone they know, such as a friend or family member, it is very common for them to change their mind about contacting the police after the initial police contact has been made and statement filled out. In these circumstances, we often have our clients tell us that the victim “wants to drop the charges” or “does not want to press charges anymore”. It is a common misconception in Las Vegas that when charged with a crime such as a Battery Constituting Domestic Violence, the person who contacted the police has the authority to choose whether to press charges or drop charges. Often times the alleged victim who initiated the police contact will even go as far as to contact the police department or the prosecuting body to inform them they want to “drop the charges.” However, it is not nearly as simple as TV makes it seem. A phone call from the victim to the prosecutor or police officers will rarely, if ever, cause the prosecutor to dismiss a pending case against a defendant.
As stated above, the most common type of charges we see this on is a domestic violence charge. This is usually because accusations of domestic violence usually occur against an ex-spouse, or current spouse, roommate, or other family member or friend. It is quite often that the alleged victim later feels guilty for calling the police, or feels as though they may have exaggerated or called the police simply out of spite, and not because they were really harmed or in fear of harm. It is also common, however, that the reporting person has changed their mind and wants to “drop charges” because of actual fear or threats from the defendant. It is probably the latter reason that makes prosecutors hesitant to dismiss cases merely because of a victim who is recanting the original story they told the police. Often times defendants and victims are left confused as to why a prosecutor would possibly be pursuing a case against a defendant where the victim made it very clear they did not want to proceed. As stated above, prosecutors can be overly cautious in not dismissing cases where a victim is recanting based upon threats from the defendant. Additionally, it would probably create the idea that anyone can call the police to report a domestic violence that may not have really occurred because they know if they change their mind later they can simply have the case dismissed.
Simply put, it is not up to the victim whether or not a criminal complaint is going to be filed and pursued. The only individual who has the authority to proceed with a criminal case is the prosecuting body. Most prosecutors probably take into consideration how the victim wants to proceed and hopefully use their discretion in determining whether or not a victim made up allegations, but the final decision is up to the prosecutor.
It is also important to recognize that in Nevada, when a police officer responds to a domestic violence call, they are required by law to arrest someone at the scene. In situations where there is a mutual domestic violence and both parties are accusing the other of being physical, it is up to the police office to determine who the primary aggressor was in the situation and arrest that individual. A primary aggressor is not always the person who got violent first. It is the person who inflicted the greater harm or injury on the other. If a wife pushes her husband out of the way as she is leaving the room and the husband then kicks her in the stomach, the husband is the primary physical aggressor even though the wife committed the first battery. However, sometimes when the officer cannot make a determination of which person to arrest, the officer will arrest both. At least one person is going away in handcuffs once 911 is dialed though.
If someone is being harmed or is in fear of harm, the most important thing is to stay safe, and the police should be called if necessary. However, when there is not truly a physical threat or violence occurring, you should be incredibly careful before you pick up the phone to report a false domestic violence. Once the police arrive they are going to arrest someone. And once the prosecutor sees the police report and decides to file a criminal complaint, it is now out of the hands of the victim to choose whether or not the case should proceed. Dealing with domestic violence charges does not just affect the defendant, but the entire family.
If you have been arrested for a Battery Constituting Domestic Violence it is important to have an experienced attorney with you from your first court appearance. Very often defendants will plead guilty to a charge on their initial arraignment before their attorney has even seen the police reports simply to get out of jail. It is important to have representation from the start of the case to handle it the best way possible. At Gregory & Waldo we have represented clients in hundreds of domestic violence cases and have the experience to achieve the best possible results in your case.