A victim of a crime can file a complaint about the perpetrator and can agree to testify against the accused but the victim is not the entity that charges a criminal with their crime. The victim is not the entity that can decide whether or not to proceed with the charges or to drop them. The government, typically a law enforcement agency in conjunction with a federal prosecutor, a district attorney, an attorney general, or other local authority where the crime occured, is the entity that brings about criminal charges.
Charging Someone With a Crime
Even though someone may have committed an atrocious crime against an individual and witnesses can verify that this happened, the victim can’t actually charge someone with a crime. If the law enforcement agency that oversees crimes of this kind is not already aware of the crime, the victim can present their case and ask for them to investigate the crime. They can do this in the hopes the law enforcement agency will charge and convict the criminal but in the United States, a private citizen cannot legally charge another person with a crime.
A victim of a crime can request that the charges made against the perpetrator be dropped, and the victim can make it clear that they do not plan to cooperate with law enforcement and their efforts to convict the accused. Depending on the circumstances, this may sway the prosecutor or attorney but there is no guarantee that this will change their course of action one way or the other.
As a general rule, a court can “force” you to testify by issuing a subpoena that informs you of the testimony they need. A subpoena is a legal request for the production of documents, or for a witness to appear in court or at another legal proceeding, such as to testify at a deposition. The Latin term subpoena translates to “under penalty” and it means just that- a subpoena is a legal request that if you do not comply with it, you may be subject to civil or criminal penalties such as fines, jail time, or both. Some states are more lenient with their rules for complying with a subpoena and do not have the same penalties as others.
There are certain situations where an individual may be excused from testifying in a criminal case. Some of these situations include:
– The person’s testimony would include self incriminating evidence
– If the person is the defendant in a criminal case, they are protected under the Fifth Amendment
– If the person is married to someone involved in the case, communication between spouses is
considered privileged by the courts and they will not be forced to testify against their spouse
– If the person is the accused’s therapist, attorney or priest
– If the person is not competent to testify because of their age, an illness, or disability
Even though there are situations where a victim of a crime may be able to be excused from testifying in a criminal case, they are not the entity that can charge a person with a crime nor can they drop the charges.
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