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  • What Happens If The Victim Doesn’t Show Up At the Trial for Domestic Violence?

    Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

    What Happens If The Victim Doesn’t Show Up At the Trial for Domestic ViolenceAlleged victims are vitally important to most domestic violence cases, but their cooperation is not necessary in every case. Well-trained and experienced prosecutors can go forward and try to convict you even if the alleged victim fails to appear for trial.

    A common question is, What happens if the victim doesn’t show up at the trial for domestic violence? Contact the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices if you need an answer to that or any other question about your criminal case. Our seasoned domestic violence defense lawyers have decades of criminal trial experience they can rely on to give you the best chance to beat your case.

    Why Do Alleged Victims Refuse to Cooperate?

    Prosecutors know there are many reasons an alleged victim will refuse to cooperate after calling 911. First, they may want to get back together with the perpetrator and decide they don’t want to get their loved one in trouble or sent to jail. They might also fear retaliation. Or they might simply be lying and get scared to lie on the stand about what happened. 

    You must be careful not to influence the victim not to testify or intimidate the witness in any way. Avoid having third parties influence the witness on your behalf as well. 

    Intimidating a witness could lead to serious consequences. First, you could face additional crimes that carry heavy consequences if you do. Second, the prosecutor might be able to admit evidence against you that shows the jury you had something to do with the witness not testifying. That sort of evidence can weigh very heavily against you in the jury’s eyes—so be careful not to influence any witnesses and to obey any court orders telling you to stay away from the alleged victim.

    What Happens When a Domestic Violence Victim Doesn’t Show Up for Court?

    What happens if a victim refuses to testify or show up in court? Prosecutors can subpoena uncooperative alleged victims and try to force them to testify. However, this doesn’t always end well for prosecutors because even if the alleged victim appears, that does not mean they will testify against you. They might tell the jury they were lying when they called 911 and that nothing happened. Obviously, this would not be good for the State’s case. 

    The Case Might Not Be Dismissed

    Contrary to popular belief, an alleged domestic violence victim does not control a case’s prosecution. In other words, the person who called 911 cannot later “drop the case.” Only prosecutors can make that call. 

    Prosecutors do not always interpret the alleged victim’s refusal to cooperate as proof of your innocence. They have encountered past victims who change their minds due to coercion, fear, or misplaced loyalty to an actual abuser—so they are not quick to drop the case when the alleged victim changes their mind.

    So if the alleged victim decides to stop cooperating and refuses to testify, the prosecutor has a decision to make. They must assess what evidence is still available in the absence of testimony from the alleged victim. Witnesses can only testify to things they have personal knowledge of. So if no one else was there when the alleged crime happened, what evidence can there be to go forward if the only witness won’t cooperate?

    Circumstantial Evidence

    Prosecutors can try to use circumstantial evidence to prove their case if the victim fails to come to court or refuses to cooperate. They can use photographs of injuries or the scene, 911 calls, testimony from other witnesses, testimony from the officers who responded to the 911 call, medical records, and additional information to prove their case. 

    However, if there is little circumstantial evidence to rely on, prosecutors might need to drop the case if the victim fails to appear. But most prosecutors consider this to be an option of last resort.

    Example of How a Prosecutor Can Go Forward if There’s No Victim to Testify

    A common example might help. Suppose that a neighbor hears yelling coming from your home. The yelling sounds angry. They hear glass breaking, the sound of a smack, and claim to see you running out of the door. In tears, your domestic partner calls 911 and says that you got physical and punched them during an argument. 

    The police arrive shortly after and begin an investigation. They note that you’re not home. They also see a broken wine glass on the floor. The officers photograph a red mark on the alleged victim’s face where your partner says your punch landed. They tell the police a version of the events, and the police issue a warrant for your arrest.

    You and your lawyer go to court and plead not guilty. On the trial date, the alleged victim does not appear. In such a case, the prosecutor will likely try to use the 911 call, your neighbor’s testimony, the officer’s testimony, and the photographs to prove the case. 

    An attorney from the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices knows how to challenge this type of evidence. A skilled trial lawyer can file motions that ask the judge to exclude evidence from a trial that is overly prejudicial against you. If the judge allows the jury to hear that evidence, your New Mexico Criminal Law Office defense attorney can strategize a plan to minimize the impact of the circumstantial evidence. 

    How Can an Attorney from the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices Help?

    By asking the right questions of the witnesses, one of our lawyers may be able to show the jury your side of the story without the need for you to testify. Your attorney can offer other evidence—like photographs of injuries you suffered or other evidence obtained before trial—to help cast doubt on the prosecution’s case. Remember, the prosecutor has the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That is a very high standard to meet. So all your attorney must do is cast reasonable doubt on the prosecution’s case, and you stand a chance of winning a not-guilty verdict. 

    Experienced Defense Attorneys Can Help 

    Contact us online or call the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices today at 505-200-2982 to schedule a free consultation. We understand that you are in a difficult situation. That’s why our top priority is helping you clear your name.