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I was charged with assault and battery against a family or household member, but that person no longer wishes to pursue the case. Now what?

Imagine the following scenario - two people, in a passionate on-again, off-again relationship, are having a Friday date night. Both have had a few glasses of wine, and they get into a heated argument about an ex-girlfriend. The female snatches the male's cell phone to see if he has been speaking with the ex. The male reaches for the phone, but instead grabs the female's wrist. Instinctively, she slaps him; and, in response, he pushes her. She falls to the ground and, on the way, hits her cheek on the coffee table. She throws the phone at him, but it hits the wall and breaks into several pieces. She then runs into the bedroom, locks the door and calls the police.

Several minutes later, the female comes out of the bedroom and apologizes to the male. He likewise apologizes and they believe the argument is over. But soon there is a knock on the door and the responding police officer steps into the situation. The officer immediately observes a broken cell phone and a coffee table that has been knocked over. Furthermore, the female already has swelling about her face, and the foundation of a bruise on her cheek. After briefly speaking with both parties to determine what each believes happened, the officer arrests the male and takes him away in handcuffs. He is later charged with assault and battery against a family or household member, pursuant to Virginia Code ยง 18.2-57.2.

Immediately after the arrest, the female decides that she does not want to testify or pursue the charges against the male. Does that mean the case will be dismissed?

This scenario occurs repeatedly in connection with domestic abuse cases. Police officers are trained to make an arrest whenever there is visible evidence of an assault and battery, and to let the Court resolve whether the crime actually occurred. Many times, the alleged victim was quick on the proverbial trigger, and called the police in the heat of the moment. That victim never intended for the other person to be arrested, or charged with a crime, and now wants the whole thing to go away.

Unfortunately, it is not up to the victim in this case. The decision lies with the Commonwealth's attorney and, in the end, the Court. The Commonwealth's attorney decides which charges to pursue in Court, and which charges not to pursue. Ultimately, the Court decides the alleged abuser's fate. While the victim may have some persuasive effect on the Commonwealth's attorney or the Judge hearing the case, their wishes or desires are not dispositive. The victim doesn't "drop the charges." In fact, many Commonwealth's attorneys are instructed specifically to question the victim's real reasons for retracting their initial story.

An ancillary issue is that the alleged victim, who may have told one story to the police dispatcher on the telephone, another story to the responding officer, and yet another story to the Commonwealth's attorney, may be facing a perjury charge (or providing false information to a police officer).

In other words, this situation cannot be solved by the victim saying this was all a big misunderstanding. There are real and important issues involved in any criminal charge, including the seemingly innocuous cases; issues which can have severe consequences to everyone involved.

If you or a loved one are involved in an assault and battery case, or if you have any questions about a criminal charge, please call The Duff Law Firm at 703-591-7475  and schedule a free telephone consultation with one of our attorneys.

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Duff Kronfeld & Marquardt P.C.
11320 Random Hills Road
Suite 630
Fair Oaks Commerce Center
Fairfax, VA 22030

Phone: 703-591-7475
Fax: 703-273-4537
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