The concept of pressing charges exists widely in popular culture via the influence of crime books, movies, and television programs. We believe that a victim has to want to press charges for a criminal case to proceed. As a result, one might wonder: Can someone take back criminal charges? And if they do, what happens next?
The reality is more complicated than it seems in popular media. A victim’s decision to press charges is only one factor in initiating a criminal case and only one factor in whether the case can continue. Still, the victim’s desires are an essential factor in the outcome of any case.
The team at De Castroverde Law understands the many variables involved in evaluating a criminal case. We’ll help you know what it means if someone tries to take back their accusations against you and what steps to take should this ever happen to you.
Is a Case Dismissed When a Victim Rescinds Charges?
Criminal cases do not automatically get dismissed because victims change their minds about pressing charges. The decision to pursue or not pursue a criminal case belongs to prosecuting attorneys for the government. However, it’s important to note that every criminal case has facts and circumstances.
However, a crime victim’s reversal can impact the government’s ability to continue with the criminal case and may well lead indirectly to a dismissal. Prosecutors may feel that the victim’s account is less believable, and defense attorneys may seek to call the victim’s credibility into question.
Simply put, a victim’s decision on pressing charges is only one factor in evaluating a criminal case and must be weighed carefully against all the evidence in a particular case.
Why Would Someone Want to Take Back Charges?
This is a complicated question related to human nature and has no single answer. Most obviously, crime victims may have concerns about identifying the right person or persons as the perpetrators. It’s also possible they were not telling the truth in the first place.
Emotions can play a huge role. A victim may feel scared of the legal process or the alleged perpetrator and see a way out by withdrawing charges. In domestic violence incidents, for example, a person may decide to reverse course because of how they feel about their partner — that they do not want to cause trouble in the partner’s life.
Whatever the ultimate reasoning, the accuser will be asked to explain their decision to government prosecutors to evaluate the status of the case with this change of heart.
How to Take Back Charges
Taking back charges is often a matter of communication between an alleged victim and the prosecutors or the court itself. The victim may announce their change of heart in a meeting or via a letter. A victim may notify their decision through court testimony, though this dramatic kind of turnabout is not common. Whatever the particular circumstances, the decision to take back charges alters the dynamics of the case and must be carefully considered.
What if Prosecutors Refuse to Dismiss
Our criminal justice system exists on the premise that crimes represent acts against society, not just against victims. A criminal case represents an expression of standards on how to behave. As a result, prosecutors — not crime victims — have the power to decide whether to proceed with a case.
If the government ultimately keeps charges in place, work must continue to resolve them. But that does not mean a conviction is pre-ordained. Prosecutors are obligated to see that justice is done, so they must evaluate the totality of the facts and the evidence they have. A victim’s decision to take back charges is essential in the review but not the only factor.
Cases are also sometimes controversial. A prosecutor can choose to present the case to a grand jury in many instances. A grand jury is usually between 15-23 citizens who review the facts and evidence of the case they’ve been presented and decide whether to issue an indictment. If a victim changes their mind in connection with an indictment, prosecutors typically must ask a judge for permission to dismiss a case.
What Happens if a Victim Refuses to Cooperate?
A criminal case can theoretically continue even if a victim refuses to cooperate, though it will not be easy. There may be other witnesses to an incident who can establish enough facts for the defendant to be found guilty. Prosecutors may choose to keep the victim off the stand altogether or may have them testify to a narrower set of facts. They can also compel victims to testify via a subpoena, but even that has complicating factors. Testimony may be uncertain or unreliable.
If a case proceeds, defense lawyers may also make the victim’s change of heart as part of their defense. Sometimes revealing changing stories by victims or witnesses is enough to undermine the foundation of a case and spark its dismissal.
Building a Successful Defense
Criminal cases must clear a high legal standard to support a conviction. Many things can happen along the way, such as a victim’s decision to take back charges. Let the criminal law team at De Castroverde Law help advise you if you face continued criminal charges even after a victim changes their story. Our team includes former prosecutors with years of experience and a broad understanding of how the system works. We can help you make a case for dismissal and represent you should the criminal case proceeds.
Founded in 2005, De Castroverde Law serves Las Vegas and other parts of southern Nevada and has an extensive practice in criminal defense. We focus on everything from casino arrests and casino markers to bad checks, assaults, prostitution, resisting arrest, sex crimes, and other more serious offenses. Our attorneys are waiting to help. Call us or contact us today for a free consultation.