We see the storyline play out on television all the time: the “bad guy” tries to get the victim to “drop the charges.” It is such a pervasive storyline that it has created the myth that when someone calls the police and charges result, that person now has the ability to unilaterally drop those charges. But the truth is very different from what we see on TV.
It is a myth
The truth is that when someone believes they have been the victim of a crime, they have the right to report it to the police. It is then the police’s job to investigate that report, and if warranted, charge the alleged wrongdoer. However, once the police file those charges, the alleged victim’s power ends.
What happens after the police file charges?
At that point, the investigative file is transferred to the prosecution. If it is a local police agency, it will go to the local West Palm Beach, Florida, prosecutors. If it is a federal agency, like the FBI, the case file will go to the Department of Justice.
Who can drop the charges?
Once the police file the charges, the only person that can drop those charges is the prosecuting attorney or the assigned DOJ attorney. Of course, their supervisors and managers also have the power to drop those charges, but neither the reported victim nor the police has any power over whether those charges are prosecuted.
Does the alleged victim have any power?
During the investigation phase with the police, the alleged victim’s power is in filing the report with the police and participating in the police officer’s investigation. If they choose to do neither, then, charges will likely never be filed. However, that is not always the case if there is other evidence of a crime, separate from the West Palm Beach, Florida, victim.
Once the case file is moved to the prosecuting attorney though, the only power the alleged victim has over the case is the power of persuasion. Whether charges are ultimately prosecuted, lowered or dropped is up to the prosecuting attorney, and one of the metrics they use to make such decisions is the opinion of the alleged victim.
Can the alleged victim just refuse to participate?
Generally, no. If an alleged victim refuses to participate in the prosecution’s case, they can be forced to participate by the court. If they still refuse to participate, the alleged victim can face charges themselves. This often happens in domestic violence situations where the alleged victim and their “perpetrator” work it out themselves. Then, they want the state out of their business. Unfortunately, if the state wants to stay in its business, it may be too late to get them out.