Can I refuse to press charges?

Additional Information:

I was involved in a fight with a former friend. Now we’re both charged with assault but neither one of us wants to press charges. So can we just refuse to press charges so the case goes away? We don’t get along any more (duh) but neither one of us wants to press charges.  Can I refuse to press charges?


The answer is: it depends.  It depends on which stage of the proceedings the matters are in.  If the matters are scheduled for clerk magistrate hearings that have been filed by the police, then typically you and your friend could attend the hearings and indicate to the police prosecutor and the clerk magistrate that you do not wish to proceed with the matters and the Court would honor that request.

If the matters are scheduled for arraignment or you have already been arraigned then the matters are in the hands of the District Attorney’s office and they can decide to prosecute the cases whether you want to press charges or not.  However, if this is the case then you and your friend would each have a right to assert your 5th Amendment privileges.  Then the government could not call either of you as witnesses and they would likely not have any independent evidence to proceed against you with.  Also, although the District Attorney’s office has discretion to proceed against you and your friend whether you want to press charges or not, if you each tel them that you do not wish to be involved in the prosecution of the cases, they may be willing to dismiss the matters without you asserting your 5th Amendment privileges.

So it is not as simple as refusing to press charges, but you can tell the D.A.’s office you do not wish to pursue the charges, if that does not work then you can each assert your 5th Amendment privileges and generally the government will not have enough evidence or inclination to prosecute the cases after that.

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Categories: Questions & Answers.