Domestic violence charges are some of the most complex and challenging situations for a defendant and a criminal defense attorney to deal with. These cases involve raw emotions and sometimes instances where the police were called to a scene and yet the alleged victim does not want to move forward with a case.
With this in mind, we need to answer this question: Who decides whether to press or drop domestic violence charges in Michigan?
The simple answer is that it is not up to the alleged victim or complainant to drop the domestic violence charge after an arrest is made. After an arrest—and if law enforcement personnel believe that there is sufficient evidence of a crime—it will be up to the prosecuting attorney to decide whether to press charges. It will be out of the alleged victim’s hands.
How Domestic Violence Cases Proceed
Domestic abuse is a widespread and underreported problem in the United States and worldwide. To combat this and offer victims a way to seek help, law enforcement and prosecutors are vigilant in arresting and charging alleged offenders. Once law enforcement is called to the scene of a domestic dispute, they will most likely make an arrest.
According to the Michigan State Police investigation procedure and arrest policy for domestic violence, law enforcement officers have the authority to make arrests without a warrant if they have “reasonable cause to believe” domestic violence has occurred. This is allowed because it “provides immediate safety to the victim and takes control away from the suspect.” When an arrest for domestic violence or abuse is made, the process can escalate quickly.
Here’s a look at how a domestic violence charge may come to be:
- The police are notified by the alleged victim, a bystander, or another party of a potential instance of domestic violence or abuse.
- When the police arrive at the scene, statements are taken from the alleged victim, who may have been the spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend, parent, sibling, or another party.
- If the police have reasonable cause to believe that domestic violence has occurred, they will arrest the alleged offender.
- Photographs of the victim's injuries (bruises, cuts, etc.) are sometimes taken.
- The victim or complainants are almost always asked to make a written statement, which the prosecutor uses to prove their case.
What If a Victim Wants to Withdraw or Recant?
In some instances of a domestic dispute, the victim and defendant may reconcile. The victim or complainant may call the police or the prosecutor's office after the incident to try to withdraw their claim or drop the charges. However, most prosecutors will move forward with the case anyway.
Sometimes, victims will go to trial in an attempt to change their stories. Prosecutors may attack their in-court testimony and explain that the victim is trying to “save” the defendant from being convicted by altering the truth. Judges and juries may be asked to accept the victim's original statement as truthful because it was made in an excited state and is therefore credible because there was no time for fabrication. In some cases, victims can even find themselves facing charges for perjury, filing a false police report, or obstruction of justice.
Regardless of whether the alleged victim retracts or is no longer interested in pursuing the domestic violence charge against the spouse/defendant, the fact is that it is not up to the victim to drop the charges. The prosecutor will decide whether to proceed.
What You Can Do
If you have been arrested for domestic violence or assault, you need to act fast and protect yourself. Even if the alleged victim does not want to move forward with a case and this was a misunderstanding or simple argument blown out of proportion, you could find yourself facing misdemeanor or felony charges and jail or prison time if you’re convicted. You’ll need a competent attorney to defend your rights.
I have been fighting for clients as a Farmington Hills criminal defense lawyer since 2002. In this time, I have seen innocent people face charges for crimes they did not commit. I have used my knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and the precedents set by case law to help my clients have their charges lessened or dropped altogether. I work day in and day out for my clients because I believe in their rights.
Now is the time to schedule your free consultation. I serve clients throughout every court in the Metro Detroit area, including Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Livingston, and Wayne County. Call (248) 599-0054 today!