Each year, more than 10 million Americans experience domestic violence. Many of these incidents are reported to the police by victims themselves or by third parties.
In either case, once the police get involved, things can become complicated. Victims are often unaware of how the process works. They can be startled to discover that they cannot have domestic violence charges dropped at will.
Here’s all you need to know about domestic assault charges, how they work, and how a lawyer can help.
Domestic Abuse Charges: What You Need to Know
Domestic violence is a crime and is treated as such by the police called to take reports and investigate possible instances of abuse. When an incident is reported:
- Police are sent to gather evidence and statements
- Police may do additional investigating as appropriate
- Police’s reports on the incident are forwarded to the appropriate local prosecutor who reviews the charges
If the prosecutor decides that there isn’t enough evidence to take the matter to trial, they will choose not to press charges. If the prosecutor determines there is a strong case, they will press charges and take the issue to court. At this point, a judge decides whether the accused is guilty or not guilty and what penalties may apply.
Domestic Abuse Penalties
Domestic abuse penalties can vary. First offenses and minor offenses may only receive light sentences. For example, accused abusers may be required to pay for, and complete approved anger management classes.
More serious offenses can be punishable by probation and jail time, along with other consequences including:
- Loss of the right to own firearms
- Restraining orders preventing them from contacting their partners or children
- Criminal records that impair their ability to get certain jobs or positions
Domestic abuse charges cannot be wiped from an individual’s record. They are permanent and serious.
The Bottom Line
Once the police are involved, all decisions related to pressing charges are in the hands of the prosecutor. Contrary to popular belief, victims cannot simply choose to have domestic violence charges dropped.
Why You Might Want Domestic Violence Charges Dropped
There are many reasons why victims may want the charges against their alleged abusers dropped. For example:
- Incidents may have been the result of drugs or alcohol and not a true reflection of the situation or relationship
- Victims may be concerned about the social and economic effects on their partners and themselves if strict domestic violence penalties are put into effect
- Victims may feel that the information the police gathered was wrong or inaccurate
- Victims may prefer to deal with their situations personally rather than through the courts
Is There a Way to Get Domestic Violence Charges Dropped?
While victims cannot control domestic violence cases directly, they are not powerless. Victims can communicate with the prosecutors who are in charge of their claims. While they cannot dictate what happens, they can make their concerns, preferences, and desires known.
If prosecutors decide the case is not worth pursuing, they have the power to drop the charges on the victim’s behalf. Victims can often sway prosecutors into making this decision by providing them with new or additional evidence related to the case.
For example, victims could provide evidence that:
- At the time of the incident, one or both parties were impaired by drugs or alcohol
- The information provided to the police is inconsistent or inaccurate
- The party who contacted the police with the allegations had reason to lie about the incident (to influence court or custody battles or because of an ongoing feud with the accused)
Often, this type of evidence is all you need to convince a prosecutor to drop the charges.
Why You Need a Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer for Domestic Violence Cases
While victims can approach prosecutors directly about getting domestic violence charges dropped, doing so is extremely unwise. Every victim seeking to have charges dropped should speak to a Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer first.
- Help you make your case effectively
- Protect you from other charges
- Help get the charges changed or reduced if the prosecutor will not drop them
- Assist you in negotiating the best possible outcomes
Making Your Case Effectively
If the prosecutor feels that they have a strong case, they may be very unwilling to drop it. Prosecutors are trained and experienced in making their cases, and attempting to argue your case against them can be difficult. This may be even more difficult when you are flustered or stressed about your situation.
Having your lawyer make your case for you ensures that it will be presented powerfully and accurately. Your lawyer can explain the situation to the prosecutor peer-to-peer far more convincingly than you would be able to.
Protection From Other Charges
When you’re worried about your partner facing domestic violence jail time, it can be tempting to say whatever you need to resolve the situation. However, if you confess to another crime, such as illegal drug use, while trying to convince the prosecutor to drop the charges, you and your partner can end up in more trouble. A lawyer can help you make your case without incriminating yourself.
Changing or Reducing Charges
If you speak to the prosecutor and they will not be swayed from pressing charges, you will be left with no recourse. Your lawyer, by contrast, will know if and where it is possible to argue for reduced charges. They can work with the prosecutor to negotiate a better outcome for everyone.
For example, they may be able to negotiate a plea deal in which the accused pleads to a lesser charge that carries only a small fine.
Get the Help You Need
If you are seeking to have domestic violence charges dropped, help is available. The David Hunter Law Firm has more than 30 years of experience in domestic violence cases. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Can a Victim Drop Domestic Violence Charges? | David Hunter Law Firm — Sugar Land, Texas