This week, our criminal lawyers discuss a Maryland woman's concerns about her argument with her boyfriend that accidentally turned physical and lead to assault charges being filed.
The Question: Girlfriend called police after Boyfriend accidentally pushed her down the stairs during an argument, and now the state is filing first degree assault charges. Can the Girlfriend do anything to stop the charges as the "alleged victim" who called in the situation?
My boyfriend accidentally knocked me down the stairs during an argument trying to grab something and in the heat of the moment I got scared and called the police to de-escalate the situation. The state is charging him with a level 1 assault, but I feel that that's unjust. What can I do as the alleged victim i this situation?
The Answer: In a criminal case, it's Maryland vs defendant, not victim vs defendant. An individual may prosecute, but essentially the state attorney makes the call. Though, they do take into account the victim's wishes and often consult with them prior to pressing charges.
However, the state is always interested in cases of withdrawing charges under coercion. If the state feels that the victim was forced to recant their statement and request the withdrawal, they may still press charges.
The criminal court operates differently than, say, family or civil court. A person files a claim or suit against another in family or civil matters. That claim or lawsuit can be dropped anytime by the person who filed it.
However, in criminal matters, it is the state of Maryland against the defendant, so the call is made by the States Attorney. They will take your wishes into account when consulting with you before pressing the charges.
But, cases of domestic violence bring a close look into your relationship. Suppose something like this has happened before and police called or a temporary protective order issued. There is a pattern of behavior the States Attorney may argue to insist charges pressed in that case. Maryland does not take domestic violence lightly.
You'll want to show this is truly an accident and not assault, as well as a first-time occurrence. Having no prior domestic calls to the residence proves that.
Also, the state wants to make sure the victim wasn't intimidated into dropping charges because of domestic violence. Suppose the defendant threatens more harm or apologizes profusely, saying it will never happen again to get the victim to drop charges. In that case, the States Attorney may see that as coercion and stick to bringing charges.
Don't forget; police are not fans of wasting their resources on frivolous arguments between couples. There are other ways to de-escalate a heated argument between a couple than calling law enforcement.
When called to the scene of alleged domestic violence, police investigate. What law enforcement tells the States Attorney about their investigation is a factor in the decision.
You should be open and honest with the States Attorney about the events that led to the incident that fateful night. It may help your case not press charges. Ultimately, it is up to them to do so or not.
Having an attorney with you helps, too. The team of attorneys at JC Law works to defend every Marylanders rights. They ensure you don't further incriminate yourself or your boyfriend by telling you what to and not to say to the authorities. You may even want to consider getting your boyfriend a good defense attorney, like those at JC Law, to fight the charges.
Our automatic disclaimer: We're lawyers, but not necessarily your lawyer, and do not represent the individual who asked this question. We're providing this information for general educational purposes based on the publicly available information provided by the anonymous Internet user. Any number of details may change how this individual's attorney may pursue this legal situation, differently from how we suppose above. If you have a similar question, then you should consult with a lawyer about your specific situation to get a "real" response!