Dropping Maryland Domestic Violence Civil and Criminal Actions

Incidents of domestic violence can be confusing for all parties involved. What may have started as a normal argument can quickly escalate into a situation where someone is hurt, or begins to feel that their life is in danger. However, just as quickly as these altercations start, they can end. Someone who may have filed a criminal or civil action may realize that they no longer wish to move forward with that process. Before considering dropping Maryland domestic violence civil and criminal actions, it is important for people to know what dropping an action entails. A skilled lawyer can help explain that process to you.

What an Accuser is Asking For in a Criminal Action

The truth is an accuser does not ask for anything in a criminal action. What they are doing is reporting an incident. The individual does not ask for anything other than to report what has happened to them. The police and prosecutor investigate and prosecute the individual charge and it is up to the prosecutor as to what will not happen, whether they go to jail, whether the prosecutor wants the person to be on probation, and whether the judge ultimately makes a decision. Now the alleged victim can provide some of their opinions of what they would like to see happen but it is not up to the alleged victim as just the witness for the state.

Dropping Charges in a Criminal Action

Unlike a civil protective order, the accuser does not call the shots or determine whether or not it is going to proceed, which goes on to answer the second part: an accuser cannot drop charges.   A major misconception that people have is that at any point they can start the process of dropping Maryland domestic violence civil and criminal actions. If a couple gets into a fight, charges are filed, and then the accuser asks if they can drop the charges, the prosecutor will tell them they cannot because at that juncture, it is no longer the accuser’s choice. That is because if an individual has committed an assault, they broke a law in the state of Maryland. Maryland is represented by the state attorney’s office as far as criminal charges go.

Because it is up to the prosecutor whether to charge or not or prosecute a person or not, they are the ones that can dictate whether the charges should be dropped and there are instances where an accuser feels bad for the person or their family or they want to work it out and they will try to drop the case,  and the prosecutor does not want to because they do not feel it is right and they can still prosecute. Now, sometimes if the relative nature of it is fairly minimal and the accuser does not want to move forward, sometimes the prosecutor will let it go with maybe a condition of anger management or some counseling, they can do that, but ultimately it is up to the prosecutor, not the accuser.

Accusers as Witnesses

Even if an accuser is contemplating dropping Maryland domestic violence civil and criminal actions, or manages to drop their civil action, that does not mean they are protected from participating in the criminal action. What happens in one does not affect what happens in the other and what the state can do is even if an accuser is unwilling to come forward, is issue a subpoena or even a body attachment to get the alleged victim to come to court and testify against the person being charged, even if it is against their will.

However, they are still not considered hostile witnesses. They are certainly an uncooperative witness but if the prosecutor wants them to testify—unless it is a privilege that they can refuse to do so—they have to testify and if they still refuse then they are in contempt of court and can be incarcerated and jailed until they decide to testify.

Why Accuser and Accused Should Limit Contact

If there is a no-contact provision, contact would violate that. There is always a concern that even if the accuser was willing to communicate with the accused, that there can be no argument that they engage in witness intimidation, tampering, or trying to persuade the accuser to testify differently or change their story because that can lead additional criminal charges and a much more aggressive prosecution.

Value of an Attorney

Sometimes, reconciliation is possible, even in instances where someone has filed a criminal or civil action, dropping Maryland domestic violence civil and criminal actions is not impossible. A domestic violence lawyer can serve as a liaison between you and the accuser and can facilitate. In doing so, your lawyer can also protect you from accidentally violating a no-contact provision, if there is one between you and your accuser.