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Domestic violence cases are not always easy to prove. Outside witnesses or surveillance may not be present, the victim’s perspective of the incident may be skewed by their relationship to the abuser, and not all violence leaves physical scars or marks.
Often, these cases are left to a “he-said, she-said” account of the relationship and alleged violence. The victim of domestic violence may even be the one charged!
This puts a lot of pressure on the alleged victim. Their testimony may make or break the verdict.
Most of us are familiar with stories of victims being under pressure because they really are being abused and they are scared of their abuser. If you’ve watched pretty much any police show in the last 30 years or so, chances are you’ve seen an episode or two with a story like this.
However, what you don’t hear about as much is that this pressure is put on alleged victims even if the accusations are false.
Misunderstandings involving law enforcement officers or others may lead to an accusation – or even criminal charges. Domestic violence convictions in Colorado can result in jail time, fines, and other penalties.
What if the alleged victim wants a not guilty verdict as much as the defendant? What can they do? What power do they have?
In this post, that’s what we’re going to cover – the power of alleged victims of domestic violence. We’ll let you know what they can and can’t do under the law, and how their involvement in the case can make a huge impact.
If a victim’s testimony directly led to the initial charges, they should be able to take that testimony and the charges back, right?
Not so much. Even if a victim adamantly denies the violence and fights for dropped charges, they can’t directly drop the charges themselves.
Why? Because the victim is not technically the party pressing the charges in a criminal case. These charges are taken up by the state. That means state prosecutors are the ones pressing the charges against the abuser, and only they can drop those charges before the trial begins. During the trial, the judge or jury can drop the charges due to a lack of evidence.
So, what can alleged victims do?
If the alleged victim wants to see the charges dropped, they can reach out to the prosecution and tell them they want to recant their testimony. However, simply asking the prosecution to drop the charges and recanting probably won’t get the charges dropped by itself.
While defendants are represented by a criminal defense lawyer, the victim is not represented by the state prosecutor. Prosecutors have a duty to keep victims and other people safe, and if they believe that the alleged abuser could be causing harm, they will keep the charges.
One reason prosecutors may be hesitant to drop the charges based on the alleged victim’s recanted testimony is because it’s not uncommon for a victim to want to protect their abuser.
The cycle of being hurt by an abuser, forgiving the abuser, and being hurt again affects many victims. The love they have for the abuser or the psychological damage from the violence may shield the victim’s ability to protect themselves.
How can prosecutors know that the alleged victim is telling the truth and that they are not in harm’s way? A psychological evaluation may serve as key evidence.
Psychologists and behavioral therapists act as third parties who are trained to spot common symptoms of domestic violence. If an alleged victim is of healthy body and mind and does not display evidence of violence or trauma, a therapist can sign off on their mental health.
Alleged victims who want to prove that they have not endured recent domestic violence may benefit from a trip to a psychologist.
All of this information can be frustrating to alleged victims and abusers who want criminal charges to be dropped. Criminal cases can be extremely stressful and the penalties for domestic violence can affect the alleged abuser’s ability to hold a job or see their children.
The most important thing to remember is to keep calm throughout the process. Defendants are innocent until proven guilty. If there is scant evidence against the alleged abuser, they should walk free.
In contrast, if the alleged victim starts to act irrationally, the prosecution may misinterpret that behavior as stemming from abuse or violence. The best course of action is to stay calm and let the criminal justice system work.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.