Can Domestic Violence Charges Be Dropped in California?

Posted in Domestic Violence on July 3, 2022

Domestic violence is the crime of physically, verbally or psychologically abusing someone in your household or whom you share a close relationship with. In California, if the police are contacted about an incident of domestic violence or abuse, the decision of whether or not to press charges is out of the accuser’s hands. There could still be ways to have these charges dropped, however, depending on the circumstances.

What Is the Crime of Domestic Violence in California?

California Penal Code 273.5 defines domestic violence as willingly inflicting “corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition” against a victim who is the offender’s spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, someone the offender has or had a romantic relationship with, or the mother or father of the offender’s child. The punishments for this crime are listed as imprisonment in the state prison for two to four years or county jail for one year and/or a fine of up to $6,000.

An Alleged Victim Cannot Drop the Charges

In the majority of domestic violence and abuse cases, it is the victim of abuse who contacts the police about this crime – often in the midst or immediate aftermath of a fight. Not all of these reports are authentic, however. For example, an alleged victim may call the police out of fear that something bad is about to happen rather than to report a crime that has actually been committed. In other cases, the victim calls the police to threaten someone or make a point. Still other cases involve total fabrications as a form of punishment or revenge.

Even if a victim does experience domestic violence, he or she may have involved the police in the heat of the moment only to regret it afterward. The victim may not want to press charges. In California, however, an alleged victim does not have control over whether or not charges are filed against an offender. Once the police are involved, they have jurisdiction over the case. They will submit their report to the city prosecutor to decide whether or not to bring charges.

Lack of Cooperation by the Victim Can Lead to Case Dismissal

It is not enough for an alleged victim to say that he or she does not want to press charges or recant an allegation of domestic violence. A prosecutor may still decide to push forward with a criminal domestic violence case against the alleged offender despite a withdrawal of the accusation. This is due to the fact that many domestic violence victims later change their stories and recant allegations out of fear of the abuser rather than the truth of what happened.

However, a victim can still express that he or she doesn’t want to press charges or cooperate with an investigation. Although this does not guarantee that charges won’t be filed, a lack of cooperation by the alleged victim can make it more difficult for a prosecutor to pursue charges, decreasing the odds of the offender being arrested. A prosecutor will generally only pursue a case that he or she believes the state can win. Without cooperation or testimony from the victim, this may prove too difficult a challenge.

What to Do if You Are Facing Domestic Violence Charges

If someone has accused you of domestic violence in California, contact a domestic violence defense lawyer immediately. An attorney will review your case and offer advice as to what you should do next, such as what to say and not say to the police. If the alleged victim does not wish to press charges, your lawyer can use this to try to convince the prosecutor not to proceed with the case.

Even if the person who reported you does press forward, effective legal representation can decrease your risk of a conviction for domestic violence. There are other ways to have these charges dropped in California, such as convincing the prosecutor that he or she would lose due to lack of evidence. Your lawyer may be able to use a defense such as innocence, false accusations or self-defense to win your case, as well.

If you are found guilty of domestic violence, your lawyer can still negotiate with the judge for leniency, especially if this is your first charge. For further assistance with a domestic violence case – either as the victim or alleged perpetrator – contact Ratzer|Dobis for a free discussion with one of our lawyers in Solana Beach.