What if my Wife Wants to Drop the Domestic Violence Charges?

Dismissal of domestic violence charges is not up to the alleged victim.  Procedures must be followed to protect the alleged victim.
Dismissal of domestic violence charges is not a simple task. Procedures must be followed to protect the alleged victim.

The question of whether an alleged victim (frequently the wife) can drop domestic violence charges is probably the most common question related to domestic violence charges.  This issue comes up all the time for a number of reasons.  It also comes up in a variety of forms.  They come up from the defendant as well as the alleged victim.

Naturally, the same question comes up on the wife’s end though domestic violence charges are clearly more commonly filed against the husband.  Nor is the  question exclusive to the marital relationship.  The same question will come up with boyfriends, girlfriends and fiance’s.  So when I use the terms “wife”, I am referring to alleged victims of domestic violence broadly.

In any event, the answer to the question is somewhat complicated and entirely dependent on the circumstances.  And to get the short answer out of the way quickly, it probably does not matter to the judge or the prosecutor that your wife wants to drop the charges!

Circumstances surrounding the Dropping of Domestic Violence Charge

The circumstances that may influence the judge and prosecutor include not just the facts of the case such as the alleged act of domestic violence, the existence of injuries, the defendant’s criminal history, and the history of domestic violence in the household.    The circumstances will also include the court, the judge, and the prosecutor.

There are numerous factors involved in the dismissal of domestic violence charges.  The wishes of the alleged victim are not necessarily determinative.

Regarding the factual circumstances, if the facts surrounding the alleged domestic violence suggest danger to the alleged victim or dangerous propensities on the part of the defendant, it probably matters very little to the judge or the prosecutor that the wife or other alleged victim wants to drop the charges.  For instance, if there are weapons,  the alleged victim’s wishes may be immaterial.  Keep in mind also that “weapon” can be anything used to cause or threaten harm from a teacup to a shotgun.

Weight Given to Factors for Dropping Domestic Violence Charges

If there are injuries, the wife’s/alleged victim’s wishes will likely be ignored as well.  Injuries suggest to the court and prosecutors not only a seriousness to the events in question but perhaps deeper problems in the household beyond the immediate event.

A history of domestic violence will weigh heavily against dismissal of domestic violence charges no matter what the alleged victim’s wishes.
A criminal history on the part of the defendant also weighs against a dismissal.  This is particularly so if the history involves alcohol, drugs or violence. In particular, a history of domestic violence is not looked upon kindly by the court or prosecutor and will likely negate any consideration of the alleged victim’s wishes.

Finally, judges and prosecutors are apt to err on the side of caution.  And caution means protecting the alleged victim, not the defendant.  As such, even in what might seem trivial or even questionable incidents of domestic violence, many if not most prosecutors will not dismiss the case on the wishes of the alleged victim alone.

Seek Legal Guidance – Complexities and Consequences Abound!

In short, the wishes of the alleged victim more often than not have little or no bearing on the prosecutor’s decision to move forward with the case.  Domestic violence is a serious issue in New Mexico (and elsewhere).  The stakes are high for all involved if mistakes are made. This includes the defendant, the alleged victim, the family, the courts and the prosecutors.

If you are facing domestic violence charges, you should immediately seek the guidance of an experienced domestic violence attorney.  Both the criminal penalties for domestic violence as well as the other consequences of a conviction can be extremely serious.  Do not count on the charges being dropped just because you and your wife (or other alleged victim) have made up.  This means very little to the courts or the prosecutors.

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