In a domestic violence prosecution, there is often a good deal of confusion on the part of both the alleged victim and alleged perpetrator. In many cases, the alleged victim does not want the case to proceed. If you are the victim in a domestic violence prosecution you may want to know if you have to show up in court if you don’t want to prosecute a domestic violence case. Because there are a number of variables that can impact the answer to that question it is imperative that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney before making the decision not to appear in court; however, a better understanding of how a domestic violence case is handled may help you understand where you stand.
Until fairly recently, domestic violence was largely ignored by the authorities. When an arrest was made, the victim was often allowed to decide if charges would proceed against the alleged abuser. Victims frequently recanted, often because of fear of reprisals by an abuser. Not surprisingly, under the old system, few true abusers were convicted and punished. In an attempt to change that, many law enforcement agencies developed new domestic violence policies. Prosecuting attorneys also changed the way they handled domestic violence cases. Essentially, the policy of many police departments is to make an arrest if there is any question that domestic violence occurred. Once an arrest has been made, the prosecuting attorney will review the report. If the prosecuting attorney decides to proceed, only the prosecuting attorney can dismiss the charges after that point.
Though the intention behind the changes is certainly admirable, the end result is often problematic. All too often an arrest is made when domestic violence did not occur. A simple argument between husband and wife can result in criminal charges when nothing physical occurred between the couple. The police are often reluctant to listen to the alleged victim at the scene because they would rather err on the side of making an arrest when one isn’t warranted than not making an arrest and having the situation escalate.
If you are the alleged victim in a domestic violence case you may receive a summons to appear in court. Although you may not wish to assist in the prosecution, failing to appear can lead to an arrest warrant being issued for your arrest. If you find yourself in this situation the best thing to do is consult with a criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can attempt to communicate with the prosecuting attorney and express your desire to have the charges dismissed. Failing to appear, however, should not be an option as you could end up in jail yourself.