Domestic Violence in Missouri
Domestic violence is a serious crime in Missouri. At the same time, it can be a delicate issue for both the defendant and the complainant.
It is not uncommon that victims of the crime later decide they want to drop charges against the alleged perpetrators. This is common in cases where the victim wrongly accused the alleged defendant as well as in situations where the two people decide they want to work things out without going to court.
However, even in the case of a false accusation, dropping a domestic violence charge is not as easy as it sounds. While the victim may convince the prosecutors or the police to drop the case, a judge may not accept.
This blog explains why victims cannot drop domestic violence charges on their own. It also details who can drop domestic assault charges and under what circumstances they can do so.
What Is Domestic Violence by Law in Missouri?
The term “domestic violence” describes various issues, including attempting, causing, or placing another person in fear of physical harm or pain. The crime of domestic assault is typically committed when a “domestic victim” is assaulted.
The following members of one’s family or household can be considered domestic violence victims under Missouri law:
- A joint parent (regardless of relationship status).
- A person who is related to you either by blood or by marriage.
- The current or former romantic or intimate partner, including current or previous spouses.
- Current or previous occupants of the home.
How Does a Domestic Violence Case Begin?
Domestic violence cases begin when the victim or a witness calls the police. Officers at the scene may or may not arrest the alleged aggressors.
According to many states’ laws, an arrest is mandatory in a DV situation. However, in Missouri, this is not the case. An officer can use discretion when responding to a domestic violence call.
Even if no arrest is made, the defendant, victim, and witnesses will give statements, and the officer will gather evidence. If the victim calls the police but doesn’t want to press charges, the officer can still move forward with charges if they believe a crime has been committed.
In such situations, the officer will report the crime against the state.
However, if the domestic assault victim presses charges, the case goes to the public prosecutors’ office.
Who Has the Power to Drop Domestic Violence Charges?
After the police establish a domestic violence charge, the prosecutor decides whether to press charges, even if the victim requests to drop the charges later. Many counties and jurisdictions in Missouri have a “no-drop” policy.
This means that the prosecutors won’t drop the case even at the victim’s request. However, the prosecutor may drop the case when there is insufficient evidence.
The police officer (before the case is filed) can also drop domestic assault charges if there is not sufficient evidence to prove the case.
A judge can also dismiss a domestic violence case if it gets to court.
Other Circumstances Where Domestic Violence Charges May Be Dropped
A prosecutor may drop a domestic assault case for reasons other than insufficient evidence. Some of these reasons include the following:
- Cases where the statements from the victim, witnesses, and defendant are inconsistent.
- The victim is unreliable and has lied about domestic abuse in the past.
- In some cases, a case can be dropped if there are no injuries to prove the case.
- The defendant submits a written charges-dismissal letter from their lawyer stating the facts and reasons why the case may not have grounds.
There may be other options in your case besides having the court drop domestic violence charges. Contact The Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center for more information if you are facing domestic violence charges.