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How to drop domestic violence charges in California?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Feb 09, 2019 | 0 Comments

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California domestic violence laws make it a crime to harm, or threaten to harm, an intimate partner.

If a domestic violence (“DV”) charge gets filed under these laws, a defendant can attempt one, or all, of the following to try and get it dropped:

  1. gain the support of the prosecutor,
  2. request a copy of the police report,
  3. prepare a true account of details, and
  4. contact an experienced domestic violence attorney.

Please note that it is often difficult to drop DV charges in California. This is mainly because it is up to the prosecutor as to whether or not charges get dropped. And, many of the State's prosecuting agencies have adopted a “no drop” policy when it comes to DV charges.

What are the ways a defendant can try to get a California domestic violence charge dropped?

There are four main ways an accused can try to drop a DV charge in California. These are:

  1. gain the support of the prosecutor. Contrary to popular belief, it is the prosecutor, and not the victim, who determines whether to drop a California DV charge. This means it is in a defendant's best interests to find ways to persuade the prosecutor that a dropped charge would be favorable to all parties and the State.
  2. Request a copy of the police report. The police report will provide much of the evidence that forms the basis for the particular charge in a domestic violence case. Access to this evidence will help an accused defend against charges. If strong enough, a defense could lead to a dropped charge.
  3. Prepare a true account of details. It may appear, after looking at the police report, that a DV charge is based upon false allegations. If so, a defendant should put together a true account of events and facts and try to provide the same to the prosecutor.
  4. Contact an experienced domestic violence attorney.

This last piece of advice is often the most valuable. A knowledgeable DV attorney can be critical in getting a charge dropped because s/he can:

  • try to directly persuade a prosecutor that a charge should be dropped,
  • cast doubt on an accuser,
  • highlight conflicting evidence, and
  • provide a reality check on the potential success of brining a charge.

Is it difficult to get a domestic violence charge dropped in California?

It is often hard to get a DV charge dropped. This is because (as stated above) prosecutors ultimately decide on whether a charge gets filed or dropped. And, many prosecuting agencies have adopted a “no drop” policy when it comes to DV charges.

There are two reasons for the policy. The first is that it sends the important message that domestic violence charges are of significant concern, and they should be addressed in a serious and aggressive manner.

The second reason pertains to the general assumption that DV victims will later change their story about what happened out of fear of the abuser. This means a prosecutor may frown upon a dropped charge, even if the accuser decides to change her story later, because the change is likely more due to fear rather than the truth of what happened.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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