My boyfriend and I got into an argument. It got a little heated and I got scared. He didn't actually hit me; he pushed me around a little bit. I called 911, and the cops came in as he pushed me and I fell into a chair. He was arrested for domestic violence.
I told the officers that I did not want to press charges against him. What could happen if I don't go to the court date?
Criminal Defense Attorney
So that you know, even if you decide that you do not want to press charges, charges may be filed anyway. The decision to file charges is up to the police, and then the district attorney follows through.
Typically in domestic violence cases, the police need the victim to show up in court to testify against the defendant because the victim is usually the only witness. However, from what you described, the officers actually saw your boyfriend push you down. So even if you do not show up, the charges may stick. It's never a good idea to just not show up. Call someone in the courthouse to let them know you are not coming.
Also, please consider calling the abuse network in your area for counseling. What happened to you is not okay, and it will happen again, and it just might be worse next time. Be safe.
I agree with Ms. Searer, but my experience is that most of the time a domestic violence case will not proceed past the preliminary hearing stage without victim cooperation. Did you receive a subpoena requiring your appearance at the preliminary hearing in District Court? If so, you could technically be held in contempt of court if you do not appear -- although this is very uncommon in practice.
If you contact the officer and tell him/her that you do not wish to press charges, that may take the wind out of the Commonwealth's sails and charges may be dropped at the preliminary hearing. Then again, as Ms. Searer says, an eyewitness cop may provide enough evidence to move the case past the preliminary hearing stage to the Court of Common Pleas in Doylestown. There's no sure-fire answer here -- I could see it going either way.
Hope this helps to clarify some things further. Best of luck to you.
Family Law Attorney
In Pennsylvania, it is the responsibility of the police or prosecutor's office, not the victim, to file criminal charges. In most instances, they will need the testimony of the victim to prove the case. However, the charges can also be proven by other evidence, such as the testimony of someone who witnessed the event. If the complaining witness or victim is reluctant to testify, the prosecutor's office has the ability to attempt to compel the testimony and may decide to exercise that power depending on the seriousness of the case.
In most cases, if the victim does not appear at the preliminary hearing, the police will ask that the hearing be continued to a later date so that they can investigate why the victim did not appear and consult with the DA's Office as to whether filing with the court to compel the testimony is appropriate.