Can a Third Party File a Police Report on Behalf of an Alleged Crime Victim?
In many cases, criminal charges are brought because an alleged victim reports the crime to the police. The victim chooses to “press charges,” meaning they ask the police and prosecution to pursue criminal charges. What if the alleged victim wants no part of the case? Can a third party report an alleged crime to the police? What happens if the alleged victim does not want to press charges?
Continue reading about third-party reporting and victims pressing charges in California. If you’ve been arrested for domestic violence or other alleged crimes in Ventura County, call the dedicated Oxnard criminal defense attorney Paul Tyler as soon as possible for advice and representation.
Anyone Can Report a Crime to the Police
It is not only the alleged victim who can report a crime to the police. Anyone who has reason to believe a crime has been or will be committed can file a police report. If someone witnesses a violent act, or if they see evidence that violence has been committed–property damage, bruises, broken bones, etc.–they can choose to report the crime.
Under certain circumstances, a witness is actually required by law to report a crime. If a person somehow aided and abetted the crime–such as by helping to plan the crime, helping to execute the crime, or helping to conceal the crime after the fact–they can be implicated as an aider and abettor if they do not report the crime.
Additionally, certain professionals are required to report suspicions of certain crimes, including teachers, school officials, social workers, and others who interact with children. Mandatory reporting laws cover crimes like child abuse, child endangerment, and child neglect.
Moreover, anyone who witnesses a violent or sexual crime against a child under the age of 14 is required to report the offense to the police.
What if the Alleged Victim Doesn’t Want to Press Charges?
If you were accused of a crime but the alleged victim does not want to see you criminally charged, can the police still pursue the case? The short answer: Yes. The longer answer: It depends.
In our criminal justice system, although a crime might have a specific human victim, the crime itself is considered to be a wrongdoing against the public. If the police have reason to suspect that you have committed a criminal act, they can arrest you and prosecute you, with or without the cooperation of the alleged victim. If there was a witness to the alleged acts, for example, other than the alleged victim, they can certainly pursue charges based on the evidence provided by that victim.
That being said, the government might choose not to pursue the case if the alleged victim drops the charges or otherwise states that they do not wish the prosecution to continue. First of all, the alleged victim’s testimony is likely the most compelling evidence the prosecutor can bring to the case. In a domestic violence case, for example, it’s likely that no one other than the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator actually witnessed the alleged crime. Although a third party might see bruises and other injuries and infer that domestic violence occurred, if the alleged victim does not want to cooperate with the prosecution, the government has little direct evidence that any crime was committed. A court could dismiss the charges for lack of evidence. Although the prosecution could technically subpoena the victim for testimony, they might not want to pursue the matter so aggressively.
Additionally, prosecutors understand that many situations are complex. If you and your spouse were engaged in a domestic dispute, criminal charges might not be warranted. The prosecutor may determine that a better solution is to seek a deal under which the defendant agrees to go to drug, alcohol, or anger management counseling, rather than face criminal conviction.
Whether the police and prosecutor pursue the case depends upon several factors, including the nature of the alleged crime, the perceived danger posed by the alleged perpetrator, and other factors. While the government could pursue a case against the wishes of an alleged victim, it’s very possible they would choose not to.