Can a victim decide to drop federal criminal charges?

On Behalf of | Jul 11, 2022 | Federal Criminal Charges |

When you face federal criminal charges, you know it is serious. The weight of the United States government is aimed directly at locking you up. As such, many people look for any way they can escape the clutches of the government. Sometimes, this leads the accused to latch on to myths.

What is the most common myth?

One of the most common myths that many people have is that the alleged victim has the right or ability to drop the charges the accused person faces. This is simply not true. In our justice system, the victim does not have any power to charge their perpetrator. The only power they have is to report the crime, and then, provide evidence and testimony, if the state elects to charge the reported perpetrator.

Who has the power to drop charges?

The only entity that has the power to drop charges is the prosecution. For federal crimes, this is the United States Attorney’s Office in your area. The people who decides whether your charges are dropped is the Assistant United States’ Attorney assigned to your case, their supervisor and the United State’s Attorney for your district. No other person has the power to drop federal criminal charges.

Does the victim’s opinion mean nothing to the prosecutors?

Legally, the Tennessee-based AUSA and the U.S. Attorney do not have to factor in the victim’s wishes, unless there is a need to for their participation. If there is a legal need for the reported victim’s testimony, they can be subpoenaed by the AUSA and forced to testify. If that victim refuses to testify or gives a different accounting than what they originally told federal officers, they could face criminal prosecution themselves.

However, this does not mean that the victim’s opinion does not matter. As a matter of custom, prosecutors, collectively, factor the victim’s wishes into their determination on whether to charge and what to charge. This is in addition to federal law, the offender’s criminal history, the severity of the crime, any mitigating factors, etc. Of course, your Middle Tennessee attorney can negotiate a plea deal for lesser charges as well. Ultimately, the federal prosecutor is in charge of who gets charged, what charges they face and whether charges are dropped.