Criminal Defense Lawyers in Salt Lake City - Serving All of Utah
If I am the victim, can I drop criminal charges after they have been filed?There are times when a person calls the police or takes other actions that result in criminal charges being filed against another person, but later decides that they do not want to pursue the criminal case. The question is sometimes raised, "Can I dismiss the criminal case after charges have been filed?" There is not a single, simple answer to that question. But there are steps you can take if you have decided that you do not want the criminal charges pursued. However, many of these steps can also lead to potential problems. Consulting with an experienced Utah criminal defense lawyer can help you determine the best way to proceed.
A Utah criminal case is fundamentally different from a civil case. In a civil case, a plaintiff can typically move to dismiss the case at any point and without being required to provide a reason or justification. In a criminal case, however, the victim is not considered the "plaintiff." In a criminal case, the government (a city, state, or federal government) takes the role of plaintiff. Theoretically at least, the government pursues a criminal case on behalf of all citizens, not just the victim. Thus, while a victim's interests must be considered by a prosecutor, the prosecutor must consider other factors, and is allowed to exercise prosecutorial discretion in deciding whether to dismiss or pursue a criminal case. Even if a victim wants to have the charges dropped, a prosecutor may still move forward in the criminal case.
Changing your story can cause problems. If you convince a prosecutor that your original report to police was not accurate, you may succeed in getting the original criminal case dropped. But you may also find yourself being charged with filing a false police report. If the prosecutor still believes that the original report was correct, this can raise questions as to whether the defendant is making you change your story. If the prosecutor is convinced that the defendant is pressuring, threatening, or otherwise influencing you to get you to change your story, the defendant could end up being charged with witness tampering.
Not responding to a subpoena can cause you problems as well. Although most subpoenas in Utah criminal cases are issued by attorneys, they still carry the authority of a court order. Failure to comply with a subpoena or failing to appear in court to testify as ordered can result in being found in contempt of court. If a prosecutor has reason to believe that a witness is not going to comply with a subpoena, she can petition the court for a material witness warrant which allows police to arrest you and hold you in jail until you finish testifying in the case. In rare circumstances, prosecutors have even used material witness warrants against victims in a case.
If you have decided that you no longer want to pursue a criminal case that you have initiated, you should consult with an experienced criminal lawyer. Based in Salt Lake City, and representing clients throughout Utah, Stephen Howard has defended literally thousands of serious criminal cases during his career. He has successfully assisted victims in cases where they have not wanted charges pursued, and has been able to help convince the prosecution to drop charges. If you are the victim in a criminal case, you have the right to have your voice heard. Having an experienced criminal attorney on your side can help ensure that your rights are protected.
Contact us now to schedule a free initial consultation.