The Victim of the Assault Changed Their Mind and Does Not Want To Press Charges. Can They Have the Charges Dropped?

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Toronto has seen increasing rates of certain violent crimes in recent years. However, not all criminal allegations are the kind that make the nightly news. In many cases, assault charges involve friends, acquaintances, and loved ones. In such circumstances, an alleged victim of an assault may change their mind and not want to press charges. So, is this allowed?

Obviously, there are many other instances when accusers may decide they don’t want to press charges. In any of these cases, though, the law dictates how the criminal justice system moves forward. Here’s what you need to know.

Can Alleged Assault Victims Have Charges Dropped?

In many instances of assault, police have discretion over whether to make an arrest. If two individuals engage in mutual combat, neither may want to press charges. In such a case, officers may not make an arrest at all. When someone is taken into custody and formally charged, however, the decision to rescind these charges does not fall to the alleged victim.

When police lay charges against an individual, the decision to prosecute belongs entirely to the Crown Attorney. Even if the alleged victim completely recants their initial statement, the prosecutor can still opt to move forward with charges. Their job can become more difficult without a cooperating witness, but a conviction is far from impossible.

Can Domestic Assault Victims Refuse to Press Charges?

When police respond to an assault call, the parties involved may wish to not have charges filed. In many cases, officers can use their discretion to acquiesce. However, this is not the case when they have reasonable suspicion that domestic violence (DV) has occurred. This can occur between those involved in romantic relationships, individuals living together, or family members.

In cases where domestic assault charges are levied, there’s a solid chance that the Crown Attorney may move forward even without a cooperating witness. The news frequently covers stories of intimate partner murders that followed previous repeated incidents of violence. This often occurs when DV victims recant their statements and don’t cooperate.

If someone is charged with domestic assault in Toronto, they’ll likely face difficulties regardless of whether an alleged victim changes their mind.

When Might a Prosecutor Drop Charges?

While an alleged victim cannot unilaterally decide to drop charges, there are instances where the Crown Attorney may dismiss a charge on their own. In many cases, this decision is directly linked to recanted statements. The alleged victim may have exaggerated, been intoxicated, or even blatantly lied to police officers. Either way, they will not make great prosecution witnesses.

Put simply, the Crown Attorney will typically not move forward with criminal charges if they don’t reasonably believe that they can secure a conviction. At times, this can be because an alleged assault victim changed their mind and wants charges dropped. Regardless of the underlying situation, anyone facing allegations of a crime of violence should seek legal counsel.

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