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Is it legal to ask a complaintant to drop charges for compensation?
Asked on June 3, 2009 under Criminal Law, Ohio
SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney
Answered 12 years ago | Contributor
No, it's not. The things to remember are:
1) The civil system (where you sue for breach of contract, product liability, slip and fall, etc.) and the criminal system are wholly separate, and behavior that is permissible in one is not necessarily allowed in the other. So while it's perfectly ok to ask someone to settle their civil complaint, or law suit, against you out of court, you can not "settle" criminal charges with the complainant in the same way.
2) The underlying reason you can't settle a criminal complaint with the complainant is that the complainant is NOT the adversarial party in a criminal case: the state is. The state enforces the laws, and brings criminal actions to do so. The complainant is the victim and may be a witness, but has no control over the action.
3) Therefore, even if the complainant wants to drop charges, the prosecutor does not have to do so. For minor criminal actions--misdemeanor assault, shoplifting, or trespass--they may choose to honor the complainant's wishes, but very rarely for a felony--after all, if felonies could be dropped at the complainant's choice, every felon would bribe and/or intimidate the complainant and get off scott free.
So, the complainant can't drop the charges him or herself anyway, and it's illegal to ask them to do so--you might end up with a charge of witness tampering as well. Don't do it.
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