Like many prosecutor's offices in California, the Marin County District Attorney's Office maintains a specialized unit of attorneys to prosecute domestic violence cases. These prosecutors are federally-funded and receive specialized training in prosecuting Domestic Violence cases. And like the Cold War joke used to go, why build all these weapons if we're not going to use them?
What is "Recanting"?
When a person is charged with a domestic violence offense, the victim's statements to police regarding the assault are used to charge the accused with crimes, and as evidence for the prosecution's case. However, in some instances, the victim later changes his or her story or takes back the statement altogether—which is called recanting. This can occur at any point in the case, even at trial.
Why Do Domestic Violence Victims Recant?
There's no one common reason why victims of domestic violence sometimes recant their statements against their assailants, but the close relationship between the two can be a motivating factor. Another factor is when the accused has an important role in the victim's life. This can include an abusive husband who's the sole source of income for the domestic violence victim and their children. If so, the accuser may not want to risk having to support the family themselves.
What About Recanting a False Accusation?
One final scenario involves false accusations. A false allegation is a report of criminal activity that never occurred.
An accuser may make false allegations of domestic violence to intentionally harm the accused, or to gain leverage or some type of advantage in another personal matter, such as a divorce or custody proceeding or a housing dispute. A false allegation of violence could also be a way an accuser seeks to cover up their own violent behavior towards the accused.
When an accuser seeks to recant false accusation, the government is not always responsive. Law enforcement and prosecutors should investigate these situations thoroughly and maintain an open mind, but often it takes the involvement of an experienced criminal defense attorney to help the government see the light.
Will the Prosecutor Drop Domestic Violence Charges?
Most likely not. The Marin County District Attorney's Office takes claims if domestic violence very seriously. As a result, prosecutors are not likely to drop domestic violence charges even if an alleged victim recants his or her testimony prior to the trial. Prosecutors at the Marin County District Attorney's Office will most likely pursue the case against the accused, even without the victim's testimony.
One reason for this is the prosecutor's office has a “No Drop” Policy. What this means is that the prosecutors will apply some special provisions of the California statutes that allow them to proceed without an uncooperative victim/witness, or one who recants. In other words, they won't “drop” the case.
There are special rules in California that apply to domestic violence cases. An individual can be charged with a domestic violence offense in California under Penal Code § 273.5 pc, which makes it a crime to inflict any physical injury, whether serious or minor, on a current or former spouse, cohabitant, co-parent, or dating partner. California law lets prosecutors present evidence otherwise inadmissible in domestic violence cases, like the prior statements of the victim. Plus, the prosecutor at the Marin County District Attorney's Office may be able to introduce evidence of the abuser's prior domestic violence convictions or even prior allegations of domestic violence in some situations.
California prosecutors, like those in the Marin County District Attorney's Office, are unlikely to drop domestic violence charges even if an alleged victim recants his or her testimony prior to the trial because of a “No Drop” Policy. However, some alleged victims recant false allegations, and the accused in these situations should defend themselves with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
If you have been accused of domestic violence in Marin County, contact the Law Office of Peter James Chambers today for a free consultation. A former Domestic Violence Prosecutor, Mr. Chambers knows their playbook and can help expose false accusers. Contact Mr. Chambers today and get his strategic insights on defeating false domestic violence cases.