The Victim Didn’t Want to Press Charges, So Why am I Charged?

Almost every single day our office receives calls from people charged with crimes involving victims on the other side. Just as often, the accused will say to us, “the victim doesn’t want me charged, but I got arrested and charged anyways, why?” Or, “the victim asked the prosecutor to dismiss the charges, but the prosecutor won’t, why?” The simple and straightforward answer is one that people don’t want to hear and often don’t understand.

If you stop a person on the street and ask who brings charges against defendants in victim related cases, almost everyone will say the victim. You’ll hear things like “the victim decided to bring charges” or “I decided to bring charges against my husband,” etc. You even heard this in the Will Smith – Chris Rock slapping scandal. Oddly, the police said, despite this crime being captured on live-national television and is forever enshrined on YouTube with over 100 million views, that Chris Rock decided he didn’t want to press charges, so no charges were brought. No wonder why people are confused. Why is that odd you might ask? Because that isn’t how the legal system works. Forgive the pun, but that was a copout by the police and prosecutor’s office in that case. But why?

Simply put, victims don’t bring charges. Prosecutors do. Prosecutors represent the State of Indiana, and only they can bring charges, not victims. In all reality, once a crime has been reported, the victim loses any control over whether or not charges get brought or not and if they get dismissed. People are often shocked by this fact.

Now is a good time to rehash how the charging process works. Below is the order of events.

  • A crime is reported
  • Police arrive or a detective is assigned to investigate
  • After an investigation is completed, the police determine if an arrest should be made
  • The alleged is taken into custody or is allowed to remain out of custody until charging decisions are made
  • The officer of detective completes a probable cause affidavit and hands it over to the prosecutor with proposed charges
  • The charging prosecutor evaluates the facts and relevant laws and may ask for further investigation or may make contact with witnesses or victims
  • The prosecutor may ask for opinions or insight, but they are not beholden to anyone’s opinion or desires
  • The prosecutor decides what charges, if any, to bring and sends the formal charging information to the court to ask for a warrant or summons
  • The judge decides if a warrant, summons, or bond is required and if probable cause exists to even support charges
  • A warrant or summons with accompanying bond (if applicable) is issued
  • Charges are now official and the defendant is brought before the court

Now, what didn’t you see in that list? The power of the victim to control any of it. While the law requires that victims be informed as to what is taking place and what plea offers are extended, they do not have any control over whether the alleged is charged, if charges are dismissed, and even what the exact outcome of the case will be.

Prosecutors often spend a majority of their time fielding calls from victims asking to dismiss charges, change charges, not file charges, or even asking to control the final outcome of the case. Nevertheless, the victim is often reminded that while they have are entitled to give their opinion and to be informed, they are not entitled to control the result.

With all of this said, it is important to note that prosecutors often give great weight to the opinion of alleged victims when determining when to bring charges and how to resolve the cases if a victim expresses a strong desire after the case is resolved. That’s often because the prosecutor realizes that if the victim chooses not to cooperate in the prosecution or attend depositions or trial, there is little chance they can win.

But, in the end, even if a victim begs and pleads for a prosecutor not to file charges or dismiss them if filed, their power to control the situation ended the moment law enforcement got involved. After all, when a case is captioned as a formal charging information in Indiana, it reads: “State of Indiana v. John Doe,” not “Victim A vs. John Doe.”

Should you or a loved one face a criminal charge involving victims, be sure to give the experienced Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC, a call or email today. We are available 24/7/365. Contact us at info@banksbrower.com or by calling 317.870.0019.