No, your accuser cannot drop domestic violence (DV) charges against you in PA. However, they have the right not to testify against you if they can sufficiently invoke the 5th Amendment. They can also strongly communicate to the prosecutor that they don’t want you prosecuted. Courts decide if DV charges can be dropped regardless of whether the alleged victim testifies or not.
In this article, our Philadelphia domestic violence and PFA defense attorneys discuss how prosecutors bring charges, the role of the alleged victim if they refuse to testify, penalties for DV, and defending against prosecutorial accusations. Shuttleworth Law PC wrote this post for those who stand accused of DV crimes and their concerned loved ones.
How Prosecutors Bring Domestic Violence Charges
Understanding how to get charges dropped and why victims cannot drop them begins by understanding how the charges get brought forth in the first place. From the moment your accuser reported the alleged act of DV to the police, events were set in motion that usually cannot be halted after a certain point.
Police gathered evidence that they gave to prosecutors, who then decided to file charges against you under PA’s criminal code. You then faced an arrest since police or prosecutors believed they met the definition of probable cause for DV cases under 18 Pa.C.S. § 2711.
When Accusers No Longer Want to Participate
Accusers may decide to back away from their initial allegations by refusing to testify. However, it is too late if they no longer want to press charges and you face a crime related to DV. Their cooperation with the courts may no longer be necessary, but that does not mean prosecutors will just drop your case.
If they refuse to testify against you in court, prosecutors may look for alternatives to strengthen their cases, such as presenting physical evidence, conferring with expert witnesses, or trying to introduce the alleged victim’s statements in court through exceptions to the general rule against hearsay. In the end, they may think or feel like they have sufficient evidence to win without the alleged victim’s testimony.
HOWEVER, a prosecutor can also file a petition asking the judge to order the alleged victim to testify. This is known as a material-witness petition. If the judge grants the prosecutor’s petition, your accuser could face contempt of court charges and penalties if convicted.
Alleged Victims Can Drop Protection From Abuse (PFA) Orders
A Protection From Abuse (PFA) order prevents you from contacting or going near the petitioner, who alleged you abused them, for up to three years under 23 Pa.C.S. § 6101. However, a PFA order falls under civil law, not criminal, meaning that the alleged victim can drop the order and formalize their decision with the court.
If they make a request to withdraw their PFA petition with the court, a judge will review the facts and circumstances before their final ruling. They want to ensure that the petitioner is safe and everyone understands the ramifications of removing a temporary PFA order along with other factors relevant to your situation. The judge will deny all unlawful requests, including matters where they believe the alleged victim is doing so under duress or pressure from you or others.
IMPORTANT: No Asking Your Accuser to Drop DV Charges
One of the most disadvantageous legal mistakes you could make is contacting your accuser about getting your DV charges dropped. This strategy could backfire and be taken as a sign of aggression, and it could get you charged with witness intimidation. It also results in a PFA Order violation if one is in place.
Instead of taking matters into your own hands, get legal advice from experienced criminal defense lawyers first. A legal team, like Shuttleworth Law PC, will analyze your legal options and help you steer your defense in the right direction. Otherwise, you could end up making costly mistakes that result in prison, fines, and more.
Pennsylvania Punishes DV Convictions Severely
DV charges are serious criminal offenses in Pennsylvania. However, the associated penalties you potentially face after a conviction depends upon several factors, including the grading and classification of the specific crime. The law classifies DV-related charges as misdemeanors or felonies according to the crime’s severity.
DV convictions can net you more than jail time; basic prison sentences and fines for these types of crimes include:
- Aggravated Assault (F1): Up to 20 years imprisonment and fines of $25,000
- False Imprisonment (M2): Up to two years imprisonment and fines of $5,000
- Indecent Assault (M2): Up to two years imprisonment and fines of $5,000
- Simple Assault (M2): Up to two years imprisonment and fines of $5,000
- Sexual Assault (F2): Up to ten years imprisonment and fines of $15,000
- Aggravated Sexual Assault (F1): Up to 20 years imprisonment and fines of $25,000
- Stalking (F3): Up to seven years imprisonment and fines of $25,000
- Strangulation (F2): Up to ten years imprisonment and fines of $25,000
Any one of these convictions has the potential to alter the entire course of your life. Once convicted of a violent crime against a current or former family member or romantic partner, you could face collateral consequences even after release from prison, including difficulties finding a job, renting a home, and preserving specific legal rights.
Defending PA Domestic Violence Charges
It is more than possible to defend against PFA orders and domestic violence charges if you stand accused. While the facts of every case are unique, a criminal defense attorney will work to prove your innocence, avoid unlawful penalties, and call out civil rights violations throughout the process.
If you think taking your case to a jury trial is the best option, an experienced legal team, like Shuttleworth Law PC, will stand by your side and present your chosen strategy in the courtroom. We will preserve evidence, analyze prosecutor discovery files, and use our findings to tell the truth about what really happened between you and your accuser.
Get My Free Case Evaluation From Shuttleworth Law PC
The Philadelphia domestic violence defense lawyers at Shuttleworth Law PC have aggressively defended the legal rights of clients for more than 20 years. We have built solid strategies backed by resources, knowledge, and skill that achieve the deserved results under the law. Call us today to schedule Your Free Case Evaluation at (215) 774-1371 or message our legal team online directly and confidentially.