If someone accuses someone else of domestic violence, the police and the court system take that very seriously, as they should. If someone harms a family member, they might do it again. Often, these incidents do not stop once they start. They become patterns. If you’re a domestic violence victim, you can tell the police, but maybe you don’t tell anyone. Instead, the police show up at your door because someone complained about the noise.
Perhaps if they see bruises on you, you’ll say you won’t press charges. Possibly you won’t pursue a complaint because you love the person who abused you, or maybe you won’t pursue one because you’re afraid.
Under the law, must you press charges if someone harms you? It’s worth discussing, and we will do so right now.
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What Does Domestic Violence Mean?
First, let’s define domestic violence. Domestic violence means abuse or violence that happens in a domestic setting. Usually, it occurs when one family member abuses or injures another.
It might happen in a house or apartment. It may occur on the front lawn or possibly in a vehicle. Any time you have a family member physically abusing another, that’s domestic violence.
Prosecutors might consider domestic violence a misdemeanor or felony. They will look at various factors when determining the charge’s exact nature.
Must You Legally Press Charges if Someone Commits Domestic Violence Against You?
As for whether you must press charges if someone perpetrates domestic violence against you, you should know you have no legal obligation in this area. The police or the court system can’t force your hand. That applies to any crime, not just domestic violence.
The police can’t dictate that you must press charges if someone hurts you, not just in a domestic violence situation, but with anything else. For instance, if someone steals something from your house, you need not press charges. That’s entirely your prerogative.
Can the Court System Still Bring Charges Against Someone Who Abuses You?
Earlier, we talked about how you might not bring domestic violence victim charges against someone if they hit you or otherwise injure you. You might love them, or perhaps you fear them.
Either way, if the police show up and see you standing at the door with a black eye, they can arrest the person who they suspect did it, even if you won’t cooperate. In fact, you might deny they touched you, but if the police don’t believe you, they can arrest the person based on their own observations.
What Happens Then?
If this happens, then the court system might decide they will bring domestic violence victim charges against the individual who harmed you, even if you didn’t want that. They might demand that you testify against the person who hurt you, though.
If you won’t do it, then you could face legal charges. Even though you’re the victim, the court system might feel that the person who harmed you committed a serious crime, and they should face punishment, even if you, the victim, did not seek it.
A judge will make you testify. They will ask you about what happened on the night or day when the police arrested the suspect. If you lie, then you’ve perjured yourself. If you do that, you might face some jail time.
You must tell the truth if a judge orders that you appear at the person’s trial who the police say hurt you. Maybe you love that person, and you feel they made a mistake. You must still give testimony, though.
What Happens Afterward?
After the trial, the person who harmed you might face some jail time if the jury determines that they committed domestic violence. Depending on mitigating circumstances, they might get a few months or multiple years.
If this person beat you severely, the charges might include attempted murder and not just domestic violence. In that instance, the person may go away for multiple decades.
Even if the person gets out, a judge might issue a restraining order. They may say this individual may not reenter your home. They must live elsewhere, and they can’t contact you or even come close. They can’t call you, text you, or otherwise reach out.
You can decide whether you’ll pursue charges against a family member who hurt you, but know that even if you choose not to, the police can still arrest them. The court system might also demand your cooperation during their trial.