Can an Alleged Domestic Violence Victim Drop Charges?
If you have been charged with a domestic violence-related offense in North Carolina, you may wonder whether an accuser can ever “take back” his or her allegations once a charge has been brought. To fully understand why this is not likely, it is important to understand the nature of domestic violence charges in our state.
Domestic Violence in North Carolina
In North Carolina, domestic violence can be broadly defined as an act of violence or threat of violence against any of the following:
- A member of a person’s household
- Dating or sexual partner
- Former spouse or partner
- Child/grandchild or a child under a person’s care.
As a general rule, crimes are charged against a suspect based on the applicable criminal statute. If it becomes clear to a judge that a domestic relationship was involved, then the judge may order additional penalties or protections.
How a Domestic Violence Charge Could Be Dismissed
It’s important to understand that a domestic violence accuser does not “bring charges.” Rather, the State of North Carolina brings charges based on the evidence. North Carolina – like all states – views a crime as an act against the people of the state, even if there is a specific person impacted by the crime. For this reason, the designated prosecutor for the applicable county has the sole responsibility for deciding what crimes to prosecute, whether to offer or accept a plea agreement, and whether to dismiss charges against a defendant.
In Wake County, as in many counties throughout the state, prosecutors will not dismiss a domestic violence charge, regardless of whether the accuser has a change of heart. However, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can work hard on preparing a defense and seek to convince a court that the charge should be dismissed. For instance, if the police unlawfully obtained or mishandled evidence, it could potentially lead to the evidence being suppressed, or the State may simply lack sufficient evidence to send the case to a jury.
Differences Between Criminal and Civil Domestic Violence Cases
In a civil case, such as a child custody or divorce proceeding, domestic violence may be the reason why a party seeks sole custody or a temporary protective order. A court may choose to award limited temporary financial support or even order the alleged abuser out of the family home. In a civil case, the alleged victim brings the allegations. In a civil case, that individual can always choose to voluntarily dismiss his or her case and withdraw the allegations.
However, sometimes, criminal charges are brought based on allegations made in a civil matter. If so, the prosecutor will be in charge of deciding whether to continue pursuing the case. Even if the victim dismisses a civil case, the criminal charges could proceed if the prosecutor believes enough evidence is present.
When an Alleged Victim Wants to Change His or Her Statement
A false accusation of domestic violence is a serious matter. It can constitute perjury if done under oath. Refusing to testify or changing one’s story can also make it harder for prosecutors to get a conviction. It may also destroy the alleged victim’s credibility. In this sense, a victim who recants or changes a statement will certainly give the defense a strong argument at a criminal trial. If the alleged victim’s statement is the only evidence, then changing a story could potentially result in a dismissal. However, the State may have other evidence as well such as medical records and other witnesses to rely on.
Facing a Domestic Violence Charge? Get Started on Your Defense
For skilled legal help with defending against a charge of domestic violence in North Carolina, contact Kurtz & Blum, PLLC, today to schedule a confidential meeting with an experienced criminal defense attorney.