Many people charged with a domestic violence offense believe the victim is the one “pressing charges” and thus the victim can get the case dismissed. That is not the case. The State, or prosecution, is the one that brings and prosecutes domestic violence offenses. While prosecutors must consult with the victim at various stages of the case, the victim does not have the right to dismiss the case. Many times the victims never wanted the case prosecuted to begin with, but a prosecutor can still move forward anyway.
The only person who has the power to dismiss a case before a trial or hearing is the prosecutor. If the victim tells the Judge that she or he wants the case the dismissed, the Judge will inform the victim that the Judge does not have that authority. Additionally, just because a victim wants the case dismissed does not mean that the prosecutor will do it. This means you must be prepared to defend yourself in court, even if the victim no longer wants the prosecution to move forward.
The victim can, however, have an impact on things like conditions of release from custody. If a defendant is released from jail before trial on a domestic violence case, the Judge likely imposed conditions on that release. Those conditions typically include no contact with the victim and no return to the victim’s home or work. If the victim wants those release conditions changed, she or he can show up to court and ask the judge to modify the conditions to allow contact or return home.
Rarely are domestic violence cases dismissed outright before a trial. However, there are many defenses available at trial, and it can often be difficult for prosecutors to prove their case. In many situations, there are no witnesses to the allegations, other than the victim. Frequently the parties involved are intoxicated and may have problems remembering what happened.
If you have been charged with a domestic violence offense, it is important to talk to a lawyer. Domestic violence offenses may have long-lasting impacts on your life, far beyond any sentence a judge may impose if you are found guilty at trial.