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Can a Victim Drop Domestic Violence Charges in New Haven

In any criminal case, the prosecutor is required to make, what is referred to by the court as, victim contact. In Connecticut, a victim has a constitutional right to be kept abreast of the status of the case, plea negotiations, and the right to appear in court and address the court as to any disposition of the underlying case.

However, the alleged victim is not who determines whether to move forward with a criminal case. The only person who makes that decision is the State’s Attorney, who is the prosecutor. With that said, the prosecutor will certainly take the victim’s attitude and view of the domestic violence case into consideration.

The Victim’s Role in Dropping Charges

A victim is not able to drop charges in New Haven. The only person able to drop the charges is the State’s Attorney, who can enter a nolle prosequi, which is a phrase used in courts when the State’s Attorney chooses not to pursue charges.

Instead, the only thing a victim can do is express the reason they want to drop the charges to the prosecutor, which can be very beneficial to the defendant if the complainant does not want the case prosecuted.

Typically, the State’s Attorney will say that people in ongoing domestic violence relationships will ask not to have the case prosecuted because they do not believe they will be able to survive or move forward without that person in their life. State’s Attorneys, however, will typically pursue cases even when the complainant wants the case dropped.

Forcing a Victim to Cooperate

Even if a victim does not want to pursue the case, the prosecutor could arguably move forward with the case even without their cooperation. There are a couple of tools the prosecutor would use to move forward in that type of situation.

First and foremost, if the prosecutor does push the case to trial and the complainant does not want to testify, then the prosecutor is able to obtain a civil arrest warrant requiring that person’s attendance at court. If the case is serious enough, the prosecutor will force a person, for example, a witness or victim, into custody and force them to come to court.

The State’s attorney has investigators and police officers, who will look for those individuals in order to require them to attend court.

Additionally, if that individual gives a statement which is inconsistent with something that they previously told police officers, there are several legal ways the state can attempt to introduce those previous statements. A common example is in a situation where the individual has signed a statement under oath. Under the Connecticut v. Whelan case, the statement can be offered as substantive evidence and the prosecution is able to move forward, even if a complainant’s statement has changed.