Common Questions in Criminal Defense: “Dropping” Criminal Charges in Pennsylvania
By: Dave Mueller, Criminal Defense Attorney
Although criminal defense attorneys are trained in the art of confronting adverse witnesses in court, a common question posed to attorneys often comes from the very person who made the criminal complaint: “how can I drop this charge?” It is not uncommon for parties to report issues to law enforcement for various reasons, then reconsider that decision when law enforcement follows through with a criminal charge against a friend or loved one. The short answer to this question is simple: a complaining witness does not have the power to simply “drop” a criminal charge in Pennsylvania. Criminal charges are brought by the Commonwealth, and they are prosecuted by the police and District Attorneys. Only the police and prosecutors have the power to withdraw a criminal charge, and they even have the power to pursue criminal charges over the objections of the “victim” if the evidence permits.
That being the case, the lack of power to drop charges does not mean that a person identified as a “victim” does not have a voice in a criminal case. What it does mean is that the person who has been charged with a crime will need to employ a very different strategy in defending the case than a person who will have to “confront” an accusing witness. In fact, where the alleged victim wishes to drop the charges, it is usually the case that the need for an experienced PA criminal defense attorney to represent the accused becomes all the more critical. An experienced attorney will know how to appropriately (and legally) ensure that the police and prosecutors can consider the position of the “victim” without making the situation worse for the accused. If necessary, the attorney will advise on how, if at all, the current position of the witness affects the ability of the prosecution to prove their case at trial. Moreover, the attorney may be able to work with police and prosecutors to reach an agreeable resolution that takes the input of the alleged victim into account.
Whether you are a person charged with a crime, or a loved one concerned about the well-being of a person charged with a crime, the first and only focus should be to obtain experienced representation for the accused. Only an attorney will know the best way work with all involved parties to ensure the best possible outcome for the accused person, while protecting the rights of the accused throughout the process.
Contact us today for a no-charge consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.