What Happens If a Victim Does Not Press Charges?
In Florida, if the victim does not press charges, the State may still move forward with prosecution, but their case against you will be weakened. Read on to learn more.
How Criminal Litigation WorksCriminal litigation begins when the State decides to press charges and prosecute the defendant for their actions. Unlike civil litigation, where private individuals or entities file claims against one another, criminal litigation depends fundamentally on the decision of the State -- if the State decides to prosecute, then litigation will proceed.
What does this mean, exactly?
To put it in simple terms, the choice of the victim to press charges or not to press charges is more akin to a suggestion. Remember, it is the State that makes the ultimate decision. As such, if the victim chooses not to press charges, that decision is not itself destructive -- though it can help you as a criminal defendant significantly.
Potential ConsequencesWhen a victim chooses not to press charges, they file a waiver of prosecution. The waiver of prosecution says two things, essentially: 1) that the victim does not want to press charges against the criminal defendant, and 2) that any conflicting reports regarding the situation are incorrect or inaccurate.
Thus, even if the State chooses to proceed, the fact that the victim filed a waiver of prosecution and chose not to press charges could have a significant effect on the criminal litigation. At the end of the day, you are more likely to succeed in your defense if the victim fails to press charges. The fact that a victim does not want to press charges not only weakens the State's case overall, but it also biases the jury to look upon you more favorably if the victim himself or herself is not invested in your punishment and does not agree with the official reports of the situation.
Though the State is not required by law to avoid prosecuting the defendant simply because the victim filed a waiver of prosecution, in many real-world cases, the State will choose not to prosecute due to the difficulty in litigating against a criminal defendant where the victim is uncooperative.
Criminal Statute of LimitationsA victim's choice not to press charges can present a serious roadblock for the State -- this can cause some delays. If the State delays too long, it's worth noting that the criminal statute of limitations period may pass without the State having commenced prosecution. If the State fails to commence prosecution within the applicable statute of limitations (by filing an indictment or charging the defendant by information), then the case could be dismissed and you could be shielded from criminal liability as a result.