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.

  1. Ashley turner says:

    I want to drop charges against my daughters father

  2. Rene Cree says:

    December 1, 2019 around 10:30 pm.
    911 was called because of a spousal dispute. My husband and I were in an argument and I was walking past him and shoved him, he shoved me back. Unfortunately I hit my back on the corner of the counter resulting in a small mark. (Skin was not broken) It knocked a knife off the rack and I grabbed it, no intention of using it, however, I'm sure my husband thought that was threatening so he grabbed one. We both looked at each other and I walked away putting the knife down. My husband put his down as well. I went to bed and put our new dog in her create, she naturally started to whine. My husband came in the room and took her out of the create. I then got up and put her back in the create. We did this three or so times before my 14 year old came in and tried to stop my husband (his father) from letting her out again. He tried to push his father away and tell him to just leave her in the create when he shoved my son and started to go after him because my son shoved him back. I grabbed for my husband pulling his arm he swung around, grabbed me and pushed me back on the bed and then he went out of the room. I started calling 911 at that point. This behavior was not like my husband. As I was talking with 911 explaining things, I went back out to the living room, my son went to his room and my husband was sitting in the living room. I was telling the dispatcher about the evening and she said she dispatched someone. I told her that he had been drinking that pm, as did I and the dispute was over. When officers arrived (3 for some reason), I explained what happened and that I should not have called and it would be okay. Things were settled and it wasn't anything that had occurred before between us to that level. My husband was upset I called the police, but calmly sat and waited for them. He was led outside to talk to the two male officers, while my son and I spoke to the female officer. She asked if she could record my statement and I said yes, and then she asked to see my back and took a picture. The officer seemed to try to convince me that I should press charges. I told her I did not want to. I wanted to work with him to cut back on both of our drinking and if we continued to have arguments we would need to go to counseling. She then mentioned the word Domestic Violence and I got very upset. My husband has never abused me or my children. This was probably the worst fight we have ever been in and yes, it scared me, but not enough to send my husband to jail. When I told the officer I was not pressing charges and both my son and I are fine we would be okay, she went out to call the district attorney on call to see if she should press charges. She came back in and my son and I watched through the front door, my husband being placed in handcuff's. THAT was more traumatizing to both my son and myself then the entire ordeal that evening. I honestly thought the police would come out, make sure we were okay, give us a citation or referral to a counselor. If I had known they were going to take it the extreme of arresting him and placing him in jail, I would have never called them. I repeatedly told the officers I was not pressing charges and I did not want him taken away or arrested. The female office stated that based on my statement and the sore on my back, she is calling it domestic violence and he will be going to jail for at least the night. I told asked her to call back the district attorney on call and she refused. I then called the non emergency number to try to get dispatch to have him call me back. She took my information and stated that she would have someone call me. The female officer called me back, and stated that she was not doing anything else with the case and he was already in jail where he was booked and is staying for the night so stop calling. I left a voice mail with the district attorneys office at around 2:00 am requesting a call, then again at 8:00 am requesting a call. I then called them again around 9 and was told to talk to a detective who is off today. I called the correctional facility that my husband is being detained at and was told he will be meeting with the judge and I will get called when that is over. I was called by the bail department and paid the requested amount. My husband is still in jail, and in my mind is being wrongly accused. To be very honest, we were equally wrong in what occurred during our dispute. The only difference was that when he shoved me back, I hit my back and caused a sore. I understand the reasons Domestic Violence is so important and is not tolerated. I support all efforts to get true offenders behind bars. What happened between my husband and myself was no more than a bad fight, which I did not realize was jail worthy. Sorry, I am extremely frustrated and disappointment in how this was handled for him and for my family. I hope some guidance can be provided to have these charges completely dropped. I have some other concerns at how my husband was handled once incarcerated.

  3. Kassandra Eaton says:

    October 24 2020. I want the state of PA to drop the charges against my fiance.
    On the night of October 24 around 10:30 11:00 pm. Me and my fiance went to a Halloween party for my birthday. When we got there we didn't want to get out of our car. We both had a bad feeling about it but we both did bot tell each other. We were not there for more then an hour. When all hell broke loose every body at the party. Started with me and my fiance for no reason at all. We both were in the bathroom using it. When then next thing we knew every one at the party was. Pounding on the bathroom door yelling at us. Then all of a sudden four guys from the party came right into the bathroom. When i told them we needed a minute cause my fiance. Was just finishing up he didn't even have his pants pull up yet. When they came in so me and my fiance yelled at them to get out. Then next thing to happen was all the girls at the party started to pull me out of the. Bathroom so the guys can get my fiance alone. I begged the girl who's house it was to have them let me fiance out so we can leave. Then after they did let him out we both went outside. To get in our car to leave but they kept on trying to fight with us. Then my fiance took off walking to cool down when i went to after him. I got hit by a car it was a hit and run. Now my fiance is in jail cause people are lied and said it was him who did it. When i was not him so now I'm trying to get the state to drop the charges. After i told them that i was not going after him because he didn't do this. His lawyer is shit she doesn't do anything for him. She didn't even fight for him. How can i get the state to drop the charges? So he can come home to me and help me with healing .

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