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Is a victim’s testimony required for domestic violence charges?

On Behalf of | Dec 22, 2021 | Criminal Defense

People get arrested for domestic violence in Pennsylvania due to many different situations. Sometimes, a spouse or child calls the police because they fear for their safety. Other times, it is a neighbor, a landlord or some other, uninvolved party that reaches out to law enforcement.

Police officers responding to a domestic violence call in Pennsylvania have a difficult job. Sometimes, the people involved in the situation want to get each other in trouble. Other times, they try to protect one another. In either case, it can be difficult for the police to determine what actually happened.

They sometimes have to make a judgment call and arrest one person because it seems like a crime occurred. If you recently got arrested in this sort of situation, can you avoid a conviction if the victim refuses to testify?

Prosecutors are selective about what domestic violence cases they pursue

The professional success of a prosecutor depends on their overall conviction rate. Every defendant who successfully defends against charges impacts the metrics people use to judge their work performance. Most prosecutors will only take cases that they feel strongly that they can win, even if they have strong feelings about an offense or a situation.

If a Pennsylvania prosecutor filed domestic violence charges against someone, they likely anticipate being able to convinct that person based solely on medical evidence, third-party testimony or police records. Very rarely will an alleged victim’s testimony by the primary or only evidence in such cases.

It is a known phenomenon that victims in domestic violence cases frequently recant their statements, so prosecutors may not rely on a victim testifying to build their case. They might not call the victim into the court proceedings at all.

What does that mean for someone facing domestic violence?

The most obvious implication of the current approach to domestic violence charges is that a defendant can’t rely on the other party involved in a conflict to help them fight back against their pending charges. There will certainly be defense strategies available, and having the alleged victim testify about what really happened might be part of that strategy.

Defending against domestic violence charges is possible, provided you understand how to plan a solid defense strategy.