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Can Domestic Violence Charges be Dropped by the Victim?

The answer is no, a victim is unable to drop domestic violence charges — and more than that, a protection order will be put in place prohibiting contact between the two parties. Either party can move to amend or eliminate the protection order as the case proceeds. By way of example, Courts and prosecutors are frequently open to allowing electronic or telephone contact and/or allow contact in public places after things have cooled down.

A domestic violence situation can get very complicated, very quickly. Here’s why.

The People of the State of Colorado vs. the Defendant

When the police receive a phone call claiming domestic violence, a few things happen: legally, it is the police that will determine whether there is probable cause to arrest the alleged perpetrator for a domestic violence offense when they arrive at the scene. If there is probable cause for domestic violence, an arrest is mandatory — the police are not allowed to issue a summons or a complaint.

As I mentioned earlier, a protection order will be put in place, which means that the alleged perpetrator will be excluded from the residence, if the couple lives together. This will likely be true even if the alleged perpetrator owns the residence if the alleged victim resided there.

After the arrest, they facts are turned over to a Deputy D.A., who will evaluate them and decide the appropriate charges, if any. If the D.A. thinks the charges are valid, and that there is probable cause that a DV offense was committed (meaning that he or she believes the evidence is compelling enough to support a conviction), they are obligated to pursue charges.

Can the Victim Drop Domestic Violence Charges?

In short, no. The victim has no power to drop domestic violence charges once they are filed. At this point in the process, the victim has the option of contacting the D.A.’s office to request that the protection order be modified or eliminated. They can also request that charges not be pursued. However, the final decision will always be up to the assigned D.A.

Under the Victim’s Rights Amendment, alleged victims have the right to have their position communicated to the D.A. — however, the D.A. is not obligated to follow those recommendations.

Once the D.A. understands that the victim doesn’t want charges pursued, he or she has a big decision to make. In the majority of domestic violence cases, the victim is the only witness. If the victim gets on the stand and says, “Actually, it happened differently,” it will make the case much harder for the D.A

The victim may try to change the allegations so charges cannot be pursued. In some counties, the victim may be coerced to testify against the person with the threat of criminal charges. For instance, say the victim tells the police on the night of the arrest, “He punched me,” but later recants, saying, “I don’t want the charges pursued, and if you put me on the stand, I’ll say he didn’t hit me.” Well, law enforcement may respond with, “That means you lied to the police on the night of the arrest, and we’ll charge you with false reporting.” To avoid criminal charges, the alleged victim may testify that he/she was punched.

Why Wouldn’t a Victim Want Charges Pursued?

I frequently see cases in which the alleged victim doesn’t want charges pursued once they fully understand the consequences. Like I said, these situations can get very complicated. Let’s look at an example scenario for clarity.

Say a married couple has two kids and rely solely on the husband’s income. Say that one night, the wife calls the police on domestic violence charges. The husband gets arrested.

Now, because of the protection order, the husband is unable to continue living in the house they share, or seeing the children. If the D.A. pursues the charges, the husband is likely to lose his job — which means that the family loses their income, which will negatively effect everyone.

Another scenario is that people contact the police to help. They may simply want the police to defuse the situation. However, if the police receive facts which establishes probable cause that a DV offense was committed, by statute, they have to make an arrest.

You can see the ripple effect of this kind of thing. Like many domestic situations, this can get very complicated, which is why it’s incredibly helpful to have an attorney at your side while navigating these tricky waters. Each family has to decide what’s in their best interests.

If you’re dealing with a domestic violence case, call our office today at 303-449-1873 for a complimentary consultation.

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