How to Drop Assault Charges Against a Family Member
Updated: Mar 5, 2019
Many alleged victims of domestic violence ask me how to drop assault charges against their spouse or family member. They soon learn that the victim in an assault case really has no say in whether their family member’s case gets dismissed. Only the prosecutor can drop assault charges in Harris County, Texas.
What’s the next step for an alleged victim who wants nothing to do with the case and may never have pressed charges in the first place?
Should I contact the District Attorney?
Simply calling the district attorney or going in person to speak with a victim assistance coordinator is a good idea if you are truly in a dangerous relationship and need help.
In situations where the Police get it wrong and there truly is no danger, it may not be the best idea to contact a prosecutor. The DA’s Office, at least in my experience with Harris County, gives little weight to a spouse’s desire to drop assault charges against his or her loved one.
Only the Prosecutor can Drop Assault Charges
Once someone has been arrested or charged with assault on a family member or family violence, the only person with the power to dismiss or drop those assault charges is the state of Texas. This means the prosecutor or district attorney.
It is very difficult for a spouse or alleged victim in a family violence case to convince a prosecutor to drop assault charges, particularly without consulting an assault attorney. Some Prosecutors develop a fixation to win the case at all costs, including those incurred by the family members themselves. These prosecutors only speak in terms of evidence and will use an alleged victim’s words against them shamelessly later on in the case. A prosecutor could hang on to a case for years, until he or she becomes the only person who wants anything to do with it anymore. That sounds rediculous but it is true.
Focus on the Evidence
Prosecutors obsess over the facts of the case and on the evidence and exhibits, 911 calls, photos, body-cams, dash-cams, eye-witness testimony and statements. Your lawyer should also focus on the evidence in your case. Prosecutors will listen to arguments based on evidence.
Often times, the prosecutor's mind is made up before even speaking with the complaining witness or victim and nothing they say will ever convince the state to drop the charges. Neither the prosecutor nor the police actually witnessed the altercation, yet they are convinced an assault occurred and that they can prove it. Learning to negotiate with these prosecutors is an art form that requires extensive knowledge and understanding of the evidence in an assault case.
Affidavits of Non-Prosecution Don‘t Work
Affidavits of non-prosecution have zero impact on a prosecutor’s decision to dismiss an assault Family violence case. Beating an assault charge will require more than a blank form and a signature. The state's only concern is whether they can prove their case, not whether spouses have forgiven each other and wish to move on.
An affidavit of non-prosecution does next to nothing to convince the state that they can't win their case and will rarely have anything to do with the actual evidence of the underlying case.
A weakness in the state's case against you, pointed out by your defense lawyer, will do exponentially more to win your case than any affidavit of non-prosecution. The wishes of the victim or complaining witness in an assault case stand little chance against a prosecutor who feels confident about their ability to actually prove the case. A good assault attorney knows how to chip away at a prosecutor's confidence in their case. After enough chipping and hacking away, your lawyer will have much greater success at getting the assault charges dropped.
Consult with an Experienced Assault Attorney
Once the state has picked up assault charges and an arrest has been made, the only way to get the charges dropped is to hire an experienced assault attorney to fight the case. This is the best piece of advice I can give to anyone fighting a family violence or assault on a family member charge in Houston: Never approach the state of Texas, a police officer or a prosecutor involved in the case without first speaking with an experienced assault lawyer. Anything you say can be used against you in court. This goes for both the accused and the victim in an assault case. Look over the evidence with your assault attorney and ask him whether the state can prove their case. Without the knowledge and experience of a seasoned criminal defense attorney, you may end up unintentionally ruining your chances of ever getting the assault charges dropped in your case.
Most lawyers will offer free consultations before even signing on to a case. Take advantage of this opportunity to learn about the criminal justice system in Houston and meet with as many assault defense attorneys as you can. Weed out those lawyers who are just out to get your money and focus on those lawyers who truly care about the outcome of your assault case and getting your family's life back to normal. If you are the victim of family violence or in fear for your safety, visit the domestic abuse hotline for your own safety. The hotline is a wonderful resource for men and women stuck in violent relationships.