How do I get a criminal case against my spouse dropped?

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How do I get a criminal case against my spouse dropped?

My husband and I had a verbal argument,and he abandoned me in a city 40 miles from home. I did not want to have charges pressed, yet now, the state is pursuing a case against him for 2nd degree assault. I plan on calling on spousal privilege after being subpoenaed to appear but is there any other way to get this case dropped?

Asked on August 10, 2013 under Criminal Law, Maryland

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Whether or not to prosecute a case (i.e. drop the charges) is a decision that rests with the prosecutor and not with the alleged victim. From a practical standpont this means that a case may be prosecuted over a vicrim's objection.  So, as in your situation, while the states case would be stronger with your cooperation, if there is other evidence to support the charge the case may still be tried.

That having been said, a skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to use the fact that you do not want to cooperate as leverage to obtain a favorable result for the defendant (i.e. to potentially have the charges dismissed or otherwise resolved favorably).  However, prosecutors are often very unwilling to simply drop these types of cases because they do not want to send the message to offenders that if they can intimidate or otherwise unduly influence a victim, they can get away with what they have done. 

As far as your testifying, while some victims try to refuse to testify by invoking the Fifth Amendment (i.e. the right against self-incrimination), this right can't be invoked simply because the witness does not want to testify. This right only applies if their own testimony would cause them to incriminate themselves. A witness who refuses to testify can also be held in contempt of court and arrested and jailed and/or fined. Further, in domestic violence cases, some spouse's think that they can invoke "spousal privilege"; that is the right of one spouse not to have to give testimony against the other spouse. However, the majority of states have amended their spousal privilege statute to carve out an exception for domestic violence victims. In other words, in such cases one spouse can be made to testify against the other spouse.


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