Can Domestic Violence Victims “Drop Charges” Against their Abusers in PA?

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
May 4, 2021

When spouses or partners are involved in a domestic violence situation, it’s not uncommon for the victim to later backtrack and change their mind about pressing charges against their assaulter. However, once they’ve contacted the police or a domestic violence hotline and reported the abuse, they no longer have the power to drop criminal charges. In Pennsylvania, the District Attorney decides whether to bring or drop criminal charges for domestic violence, not the victim.

If you or a loved one have suffered abuse in a domestic violence situation, keep reading to learn all you need to know as the victim and what to expect as the proceedings move forward.

Can a Victim Drop Charges for Domestic Abuse in PA? No.

Domestic violence victims may be the first to initiate a call to law enforcement for protection from their abuser, but they are not the party who charges the defendant. Instead, the charge is brought by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, specifically the District Attorney’s office.

The prosecutor is the one who determines whether to go forward in the case against the defendant. Consequently, the victim has no authority to drop charges against a suspected abuser because only law enforcement authorities bring criminal charges.

Most Pennsylvania districts reserve severe penalties for domestic violence charges. Local governments typically share the opinion that abuse will gradually worsen. Frequently, those implicated in the domestic abuse case are not in the best condition to determine sensible next steps because of financial stresses, brief reconciliations, and other fears exerted by their abusers.

How Are Domestic Violence Charges Brought Forward in Pennsylvania?

In most domestic violence cases, criminal charges are intimated when the police are called. In some instances, law enforcement can encounter a domestic abuse situation without first being contacted. In most Pennsylvania domestic violence cases, the case begins when the victim reports the abuse to the police. After that initial call, the police show up and investigate the scene.

In Pennsylvania, police officers are given the power to arrest at the scene for domestic violence per 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2711. While police do not have to witness the domestic abuse, they do need some form of corroborating evidence of the abuse. If law enforcement reasonably believes that domestic violence and abuse occurred, it is perfectly within their authority to make an arrest. It is not up to the victim whether the abuser gets arrested—it’s up to the police.

At that point, the case falls in the District Attorney’s hands. However, if the District Attorney chooses not to press charges, the defendant is free to go. While the prosecution may request the victim’s opinion of whether they wish to press charges, it is ultimately decided by the District Attorney.

What Is the Victim’s Role in a Domestic Violence Case?

Domestic violence victims play various roles as a case against their abusers moves forward. For example, if you’re the victim in a domestic violence case, you may be required to do the following:

  • Testify in court against the abuser
  • Appear in court for some other purposes
  • Retrieve documents or evidence in court
  • Explain your opinions to the District Attorney

Additionally, if the judge decides to release the abuser, you may be invited to share your opinion on whether you agree with the release decision.

Trying to Drop Charges for Domestic Violence in PA? Consult an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Today!

Any person facing charges for domestic abuse has the right to defend themselves. Whether you’re the alleged victim or abuser in a domestic violence case, do not attempt to do this alone. without consulting a skilled criminal defense lawyer who has experience in domestic violence cases.

At Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C., our criminal defense lawyers can help you appropriately question the allegations and dispute the domestic violence charges. There are numerous defense strategies to accusations of domestic violence, and our attorneys are prepared to help you build an effective legal defense that suits your case.

For more than 65 years, our criminal defense lawyers have advocated for clients in Montgomery County, Bucks County, and surrounding areas. We understand the complexities of Pennsylvania’s domestic violence laws and can devise a defense strategy to achieve the most favorable results. Schedule your free case review by calling 215-822-7575 or complete our online contact form today.

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
Pennsylvania Attorney's
May 4, 2021
Established in 1952 by Irwin S. Rubin, Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C. boasts over 65 years of experience serving clients throughout Pennsylvania. Renowned for its commitment to ethical representation, the firm has garnered prestigious accolades, including being named the "Best Law Firm" for its outstanding legal defense work by U.S. News & World Report. Their team of seasoned attorneys, recognized as Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and Rising Stars, brings unparalleled expertise to a wide range of legal matters, ensuring exceptional representation for individuals, families, businesses, and organizations.