Say you’re the victim of an assault. Maybe your deadbeat boyfriend hits or kicks you several times while you guys are arguing about something.
You’re hurt and angry so you call the police. He goes to jail even though maybe that isn’t really what you wanted. But “the state picked it up,” meaning they filed a case against your wishes.
Or, maybe you got attacked one late night while leaving the bar. You know the attacker well. And you’re afraid they might do something even worse if you prosecute. These can be hard choices because they really should get punished.
Maybe you want to drop the charges for different reasons entirely. Maybe you lied to the police because you were mad and the accused didn’t really even assault you.
But can you drop the charges?
Who Really Has The Authority to Drop Criminal Charges (Or Not)?
In civil lawsuits, which can sometimes arise from these situations, your attorney files a lawsuit against the Defendant for you, the victim (Plaintiff). As a result, you have the power to instruct your attorney to pursue or not pursue the civil action after it is filed. You could choose to drop it.
However, in criminal cases, the State of Texas, the Federal government, or both, through their prosecutors bring their cases against the defendant. They are the ones that have the power to drop the case or move forward with prosecution. You do not. You can only request that the prosecution “drop the charges.”
You can most accurately think of yourself as a witness to the crime against you. Witnesses represent the government to prosecute people who break the law. You are a witness for them, but not their client.
But, You Still May Be Able to Get the Charges Dropped
While you do not have the authority to drop charges, you’re not totally powerless. You can ask the state or federal government’s prosecutor to drop the charges, but they do not have to honor your request. A good prosecutor will usually take your wishes into account when considering what the appropriate punishment should be, but they make the final decision.
If you want to ask the prosecutor to do so, you fill out an “affidavit of non-prosecution,” or “ANP” for short. You sign this document under oath, citing the reasons you do not want the case to be prosecuted.
However, there can be some complications in this matter. For example, if you make statements inconsistent with what you originally told police, you could be seen as having made a false police report, which is a Class B misdemeanor that can put you in jail for up to 180 days and cost you up to $2,000 in fines.
Food for thought … just like someone should have a consequence for breaking the law, if you lied to the police and someone is about to get punished for something they DIDN’T do, you have a hard choice to make. To tell the truth or not to tell the truth, that is the question.
That’s why it makes sense to have a criminal defense attorney on your side. To protect your interest to the extent possible but preventing an injustice from occurring against an innocent person. But, make sure you seek counsel from a lawyer not already defending the accused. That would be a conflict of interest for them to be defending the charged criminal and pursuing your desire to drop the charges.
Ultimately, the prosecuting attorney decides whether to drop the charges in the case or not. With the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, you give yourself the best chance of making that happen.