When police receive a call to respond to an emergency, they often arrive at a chaotic and emotional scene. It’s their job to figure out what happened.
They will take down statements from people and look at any available physical evidence. Then the investigating officers have to make a call: Will they arrest or charge someone with a crime?
Contrary to what most people think, the police can issue charges even if the victim asks them not to go forward.
If the police charged you even though the alleged victim doesn’t want to pursue a criminal complaint, you still need an experienced and dedicated criminal defense lawyer on your side.
At Moses & Rooth, we understand the importance of fighting for our clients. As former prosecutors, we know how prosecutors think. This means we can anticipate how the state attorney might handle your case, and we can create a defense strategy that gives you the best chance of obtaining a favorable outcome. Contact us today.
Can Police Press Charges Without the Victim’s Consent?
You’ve been to jail, posted bond, and now you have to go to court. But what if the victim doesn’t want to press charges? Many people think that a victim can “drop the charges,” but this is not true. You may still have to go to court, and the case may continue on to trial even though the alleged victim doesn’t want to pursue charges.
You might wonder, How can this happen? The answer lies in how the criminal justice system works.
When police receive a call reporting a crime, they respond to the scene and investigate. They can charge someone if the evidence they collect amounts to probable cause to believe someone committed a crime. Even if the alleged victim says they don’t want to press charges, the police could look elsewhere for evidence to form probable cause.
Probable cause is a low standard of proof. Essentially, probable cause means that the police have enough evidence for a reasonable person to believe that a crime occurred and the person charged committed the offense.
Therefore, when the police arrive at the scene and take everyone’s statements, they can arrest you if others say you committed a crime. Even if you protest or try to give your version of events, the evidence collected could still provide police with probable cause for an arrest. That’s not very fair. However, the situation may turn dramatically in your favor when you go to court.
What Is the Difference Between Probable Cause and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt?
Even though police only need probable cause to charge someone with a crime and make an arrest, the prosecutor has a heavier burden to carry.
In court, you enjoy the presumption of innocence. The prosecutor has the burden to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you. Otherwise, you must be found not guilty, even if the police had probable cause to arrest you.
Prosecutors will evaluate the evidence they have for strengths and weaknesses. If they don’t have cooperation from the alleged victim, this is an obvious weakness in the case. However, that doesn’t mean there is a complete lack of evidence to pursue charges. The State might be able to go forward with the case even without the victim’s cooperation.
What Evidence Can the Prosecutor Use if the Victim Doesn’t Cooperate?
Evidence can come from a variety of sources. Remember your nosy neighbor? That person might have seen or heard something that helps the prosecution. What about the 911 call? Prosecutors constantly evaluate the 911 call to see if it is admissible in court—and if it is, it could be very damaging to your case.
Prosecutors also look for evidence that corroborates the report of a crime. For example, photographs of an injured victim and broken or damaged property are just two clues prosecutors use to corroborate the reluctant victim’s original statement.
One of the best pieces of evidence prosecutors can use against you is your own words. Many people believe that they can talk their way out of trouble. This is rarely true. It is far more likely that you will get yourself into deeper trouble by trying to talk your way out of a situation involving the police. Any words you speak before, during, or after arrest may come back to haunt you in a big way later.
Why Can Police Press Charges If the Victim Doesn’t Want To?
Victims are often remorseful about calling the police. They might watch someone they love get arrested and instantly regret taking the drastic step of involving law enforcement. Unfortunately, at that point, the case is out of the victim’s hands because a victim does not control a prosecution: the State does. And if a prosecutor has enough evidence to convict you even without the victim’s cooperation—they will.
That is why you need a tough, reliable, and dedicated criminal defense lawyer to fight for you.
At Moses & Rooth, we are ready to defend your rights. As former prosecutors, we understand that prosecutors could fight hard to win a conviction even if the victim works against them. Do not try to take care of this situation on your own. Contact us today to discuss your case with us. We’re proven advocates for people just like you.