This is arguably one of the most common questions I get asked as a Fort Lauderdale domestic violence defense lawyer.
The short answer is: Probably.
That said, without the cooperation of the alleged victim, the foundation for the prosecution’s domestic violence case is undeniably weakened. If the alleged victim is actively helping the defense team, that can even further diminish the odds of a conviction. All of that could mean reduced charges or penalties.
However, it doesn’t automatically mean you’re out-of-the-legal-woods. Because it is such a common phenomenon for the alleged victim in these cases to refuse to cooperate with police or prosecutors, answer questions in deposition, or testify in court, the justice system has established a few workarounds (so-to-speak).
For one thing, while most assault and battery cases practically require the cooperation of a victim in order just to make an arrest, that’s not so in domestic violence situations. In fact, F.S. 741.29 states without no equivocation: “The decision to arrest or charge SHALL NOT require the consent of the victim or consideration of the relationship of the parties.” Furthermore, in section 4(b) of that same statute, the law holds that if there’s probable cause to believe two or more people committed a misdemeanor or felony, the officer has to make a determination about who was the primary aggressor. And then from there, the law says that “arrest is the preferred response only with respect to the primary aggressor,” (emphasis mine) and not with the other individual who acted reasonably to protect or defend themselves or someone else.
Secondly, as outlined by the U.S. Department of Justice, prosecutors have a literally playbook of strategies to employ when they’re prosecution domestic violence cases without a victim. Continue reading