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Pressing Charges Against a Family Member

You May Not Be Able to Get Criminal Charges Dismissed

Our criminal defense law firm has recently worked on several cases involving crimes against and between family members. Many believe that if they call the police or file a criminal complaint against a family member, they can have the charges dismissed later on if they desire. This is not always true. Many times once a charge is filed, the district attorney will want to prosecute the case. The prosecutor will not drop the case simply because the victim asks them to do so.

“I Was Just Trying to Teach Him a Lesson!”

For example, we had an aunt call the police because her nephew took her car without permission. The charge was Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle, which is a felony charge. Later, she filed a Request for Dismissal, which requested that the district attorney stop pursuing the criminal charge against her nephew. She explained that she was “just trying to teach him a lesson” by filing the complaint and had changed her mind. This nephew had been convicted of some criminal charges in the past, and the district attorney did not want to dismiss the charges. The fact was that the nephew had committed a crime and the aunt’s change of heart was immaterial.

Request for dismissal form

Request for dismissal form

Calling the Cops on Your Ex

Another recent case involved an ex husband who entered his ex-wife’s home without her permission. The ex husband was arrested and charged with Home Invasion, which is also a felony charge. Later, the exes patched up their differences, but the ex husband is still facing a felony criminal charge. The ex-wife asked the district attorney to drop the charges, but whether or not that happens is entirely up to the district attorney.

The thing to remember is that once you call the police, you are no longer in control of the charges. If an arrest occurs, the state may continue the prosecution even if you want the charges dropped. You can file a request for dismissal, which can certainly be helpful in getting charges dismissed, but there is no guarantee that the district attorney will do so.

When the Family Member is Already on Probation

If your family member is currently on probation for a previous charge, an arrest can have particularly serious consequences. In this situation, the probation officer will take over and make the decision about whether the person will have to serve their original sentence. If your family member had a 10 year suspended sentence, the probation office can have their probation revoked and they will go to jail.

A person might think that calling the cops on their family member is just giving them “a wake up call”. But once the reality of the situation becomes clear — their family member could go to jail or might lose their job or custody of their children — the person changes their mind. At this point, the police have gone out and filed a report, the person was arrested and fingerprinted, and the district attorney started the criminal proceedings. In short, the criminal justice system is in motion.

Of course, if you are in an abusive relationship or feel threatened by your family member, do not hesitate to call the police – they are there to help you.  Sometimes having a family member arrested and charged is necessary and the right thing to do. But if you are contacting the police for a less serious issue, just be aware that once the criminal process has started you may not be able to stop it.  As a criminal defense attorney, I can work with the victim to file a Request for Dismissal (also known as a Drop Charge Affidavit) and try to get the charges dismissed. This is more difficult if the person has previous criminal convictions or is currently on probation. The most important thing to remember that if you file a criminal complaint against a family member, the prosecution takes over and it will no longer just be a family issue.