Can a victim drop criminal charges after they are filed?
Criminal charges in Utah can only be filed in court through a
government prosecutor. While a victim is given certain rights under
Utah law, a victim does not have the authority or the right to demand
dismissal of the pending criminal case. This can create a conflict
between a victim and a prosecutor. If you are a victim in a criminal
case, you have a right to be represented by an experienced criminal
lawyer who can help ensure that your rights as a victim are protected
and that your voice is heard.
person who calls the police in Utah to report a crime may later decide
not to pursue the criminal case. While there is no
single, simple solution to this situation, there are steps
you can take if you have decided that you do not want the criminal
charges pursued. But there are potential consequences that should be
considered before taking any particular course of action. Consulting
with an experienced
Utah criminal lawyer
can help you determine the best way to proceed. Based in Salt Lake
City, criminal attorney Stephen Howard provides legal services to
clients throughout Utah. Contact
us today to schedule a consultation.
Criminal v. Civil Cases in Utah
A Utah criminal case is fundamentally different from a civil
case. In a civil case, a plaintiff is generally able to move
dismiss the case at any point, without being required to provide a
reason or justification for the dismissal. In a criminal case, however, the
victim is not considered the "plaintiff." In a criminal case,
the government (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
The Risks of Changing Your Story
As a victim who no longer
wants to pursue a criminal case, you may be tempted to change your
story. But changing your story can potentially get you in trouble. 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 facing criminal charges for filing a
false police report. If you testify under oath in court to a different
set of facts than you reported to police, a prosecutor could also
charge you with perjury.
you tell the prosecutor a different story, but the prosecutor still
the original report was correct, you can cause additional problems for
the defendant in the criminal case. A prosecutor may believe that the
defendant has pressured, threatened, or otherwise influenced you to
change your story. In such circumstances, a defendant could face an
additional criminal charge of witness tampering.
Consequences of Not Responding to a Subpoena
you fail to respond to a subpoena that has been properly served on you,
you could find yourself being found in contempt of court. Although most
subpoenas in Utah criminal cases are issued by
attorneys, a properly served subpoena still carries the authority of a
Failure to comply with a subpoena or failing to appear in
court to testify as ordered can result in being found in contempt of
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. This kind of warrant 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.
Spousal Privileges and Rights in Utah Criminal Cases
victim who is also the spouse of the defendant in a Utah criminal case
has additional rights. Under the Utah State Constitution, a husband or
wife has an absolute right to refuse to testify in a criminal case
against his or her spouse. This spousal testimonial privilege
is separate and distinct from the spousal communications privilege,
which provides only that communications between spouses may be
inadmissable in evidence.
Finding a Criminal Attorney in Utah
If you have decided that you no longer want to pursue a criminal case
in which you are the victim, you should consult with an experienced
. 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. 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.
schedule an initial consultation.