Domestic violence is a serious crime in the eyes of New Jersey.
When police are called to a domestic dispute, they can arrest an alleged abuser, even if the victim does not want them to. The police can also arrest an alleged abuser if there is no witness to testify against him.
Once arrested, the prosecutor must decide whether to bring criminal charges. The victim is not required to take part in the arrest or conviction of an abuser.
What happens if you or a loved one has been arrested for domestic violence? What can you do to help him or her?
In this article, we’ll discuss how to drop domestic violence charges in New Jersey. Contact a criminal defense attorney for review of your case.
Why Can’t You Just Drop Charges?
Oftentimes people are in romantic relationships with their abusers. As a result, many victims try to protect the person who is abusing or terrorizing them.
Some abusers bully or scare their victims into getting charges dismissed.
As a result, the prosecutor can bring charges against your partner or spouse even if you don’t agree to it. New Jersey does not need a victim to “file charges” against an abuser, so they do not give victims a right to “drop charges.”
What Can You Do?
The fact that the prosecutor can bring charges even if you don’t agree doesn’t mean that they will. Prosecutors like to get defendants to take a plea deal; the defendant agrees to plead guilty for a reduced charge or promise of a lighter sentence. But if a defendant rejects a plea deal, prosecutors must present their case to a jury. A prosecutor needs evidence that domestic violence occurred to get a conviction.
A criminal defendant can take the Fifth instead of testifying against himself. Often, the only two people who saw the violence were the abuser and his victim, meaning you. So, what happens if you don’t want to testify against a partner or spouse?
The state will send you a subpoena to force you to testify. If you refuse, then the judge can hold you in contempt. In other cases, the prosecutor might rely on other evidence, such as a 9-1-1 call. This can be used to prove that an attack occurred.
To understand your options, you need to identify the evidence the state has:
- Request a copy of the police report. This should give you some sense of what evidence the prosecutor has. You’ll also find out if the defendant made any incriminating statements. If so, trying to fight the charges will be an uphill battle.
- Discuss your case with an attorney. There may be options. For example, you might have been intoxicated the night of the alleged domestic violence. Bringing this fact to trial could help undermine the evidence that violence took place.
How Can an Attorney Help?
If you were arrested for domestic violence, you need to understand your rights and know if a plea offer is a good deal. Not every domestic violence conviction leads to time in jail. A lawyer can review the evidence and help you decide what steps to take.
If you are a victim or witness—say, the defendant’s girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse—you need to understand what will happen to you if the prosecutor brings charges. We cannot tell you to lie on the witness stand, but you might have options for making it hard to use you as a witness.
In theory the prosecutor can bring charges without the victim’s cooperation. In practice, however, it can be tough for them to get a conviction when a victim doesn’t cooperate.
Call Us to Schedule a Free Consultation
Anthony J. Vecchio is an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has spent years working as a prosecutor. He now uses his talents to represent those unfairly accused of a crime.
To get started, contact one of his offices today to schedule a case evaluation.