Anonymous
Anonymous asked in Politics & GovernmentLaw & Ethics · 1 month ago

Why do you need to 'press charges' for some crimes like assault?

Maybe i'm wrong about this but why do you always hear of people assaulting someone, the police know and they ask 'would you like to press charges' and if the victim says no, they don't charge the guy. how does our criminal law work like that? if they had a bag of weed or littered or something, the police would charge immediately, but why not for some crimes?

or is this simply custom, could the police charge anyway if they witnessed an assault?

Update:

ok so just to clarify, if the police WITNESS an assault, do they just arrest you on the spot? or would they still ask

11 Answers

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  • ?
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    A criminal charge is a formal accusation made by a governmental authority (usually a public prosecutor or the police) asserting that somebody has committed a crime.

    The charging document is what generally starts a criminal case in court. But the procedure by which somebody is charged with a crime and what happens when somebody has been charged varies from country to country and even, within a country, from state to state.  The police do not do typically ask if the victim if they "want to press charges", it is typically more along the lines of if the victim wants to go forward with the prosecution or will cooperate with the prosecution if the answer is no then in most cases the matter is dropped. There will still be a police report of the incident bur no formal charges brought.

  • 1 month ago

    "Press charges" is at the exclusive discretion of the prosecutor. A victim can either file and cooperate or file and not cooperate or not file at all.  The police may have better things to do when it is a "simple assault" without serious injuries, but may still take a report if the victim (or others) want it reported.

    To prosecute charges, the DA needs evidence "beyond a reasonable doubt". If the victim is the only other witness, then it becomes a question of whether the police have enough evidence from their own observations (and medical info, and whatever surveillance, etc) to have a winnable case.  No, a witness (or victim) does not have a legal right to refuse to testify, if it goes to court (absent a specific statute to the contrary).  The defendant is said to have "the right to confront his accuser" in court.

  • 1 month ago

    The police can charge anyway.  But they need full cooperation from victims and witnesses.  Police and district attorneys don't like to waste taxpayer money on cases they can't win. When a victim declines the desire to press charges, police and DA often see it as that they won't get the cooperation they need from the victim.  This happens in many, many cases involving domestic violence.

    In the case of direct witnessing by police, however, assuming the police also witnessed everything else, they might not care that the victim declined to be involved. For example, if they saw that the assault was totally unprovoked, by any sort of dispute, verbal or physical, they almost certainly would prosecute.  But it often happens that there ARE those verbal disputes that escalate into violence on one side, and police do NOT witness everything.

  • 1 month ago

    Because in those cases, your testimony is likely the only real evidence.

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  • 1 month ago

    Not only do you not have to, you CAN'T press charges.

    Even if police use that term, they are actually asking if you wish to file a criminal complaint. If the victim doesn't want to cooperate with the prosecutor, and there isn't indisputable independent evidence, the chance of conviction is low enough it would usually be a waste of effort to pursue the case.

  • 1 month ago

    If the police witness a crime the perpetrator can be convicted based on the policeman/woman's eye witness testimony. If someone who is assaulted or has witnessed an assault will not testify against the perpetrator the police are likely not to arrest him/her because a conviction is so unlikely.

  • Bruce
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    “Press charges” is a common term but it is not legally correct. All you can do is file a report.  The reason the police ask is because they’re not gonna waste their time taking the report if you’re not going to follow through. Every crime needs a victim. If you don’t want to  be the victim they will not pursue it. With a bag of weed society is the victim and the officer files the charges on behalf of society. 

    There are some exceptions for assault. Most states have laws where you do not need the victims consent to file charges in domestic abuse cases or if the crime is a felony.  

  • Kieth
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    You can't prove a case without a complaint, except for states like California where the cops can make an arrest based upon what they see.

  • ?
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    The police have started sometimes charging domestic abusers for assault even if the victim refuses to press charges. That has not often been successful with no complaining witness to testify at trial.

  • Anonymous
    1 month ago

    When the police don't witness a crime like assault, they don't have the power to arrest. So they ask the victim if s/he wants to press charges. When someone is picked up for weed, it's because police find it on them.

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