Domestic Violence in Michigan- Dropping the Charges
Charges are brought by the Prosecutor, not any individual person. Accordingly, only the Prosecutor can “drop” the charges. Usually, the person who called the Police (in most cases the (alleged) victim, or, in some cases, an independent witness, who can sometimes be the investigating Police Officer) is designated as the “Complaining Witness.”
Prosecutors will not, and for lots of reasons, cannot “drop” domestic violence charges. Amongst the strongest reason these charges cannot be “dropped” is a general fear for the welfare of the (alleged) victim. What’s known as “Battered Woman’s Syndrome” tops the list of Prosecutorial concerns because it is generally believed that a “Battered Woman” will try to undo the consequences of her partner’s arrest. This of course means that she will try and have the charges “dropped.”
The real problem here is that so many of the other cases likewise involve an (alleged) victim who wants to “drop” the charges, but not because of any “Battered Woman’s Syndrome,” but because they never expected things to go so far. In many of the cases that I’ve handled, the party calling the Police simply wanted the other party to be told to leave for the night, or to “settle down.” Facing a long and indefinite term of Court-ordered separation, children, families and finances all suffer in the meantime. Not fearing for their safety, or indeed of any repeat performance of the dispute that led to the charges, most people want to put this matter behind them and just move on.
After years of trying to explain how and why it’s almost impossible to have the charges “dropped” in Domestic Violence Cases, I have found it simpler and quicker to just tell the caller that it cannot be done, and to further advise them that it will cost nothing to try. While it may sound callous, in the long run it’s better for the party trying to accomplish this almost impossible task to be told by the Prosecutor or the Police that it cannot be done, rather than trying to explain it myself. Moreover, once the caller has tried, they no longer have to take anything I say on mere faith; they know my assessment was dead-on.
It is beyond the scope of this article to examine what evidentiary issues can arise which can lead to the charges ultimately being dismissed (as opposed to “dropped”). That is a subject for another day.
In those cases where there is little or no likelihood of beating a Domestic Violence charge, and providing the person charged has no prior convictions for Domestic Violence, it is possible to work out a plea deal which will keep the charge from going on their record. In effect, the case is “deferred” or sort of held “under advisement” for a period of time, and if the person charged stays out of trouble, the whole thing is dismissed. The lawyer for the person charged has to first convince the Prosecutor to agree to this deal, and then must convince the Judge to do the same. This is a very common outcome, and the legal fees involved are not overly-expensive. In the end however, a person who can have this kind of deal worked out on his or her behalf can avoid the label of “wife beater” or “spouse abuser.”