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Criminal Law Question: What If the Witness Doesn’t Want to Prosecute?

Most people don’t know much about criminal law, and what we don’t know can hurt us. For example, lots of people believe that they can’t be charged with a crime if a witness doesn’t want to prosecute. After all, if John steals something from Mary and Mary doesn’t want to prosecute, can John be charged with a crime?

Yes. Just because the witness doesn’t want to prosecute does not mean that the state will not charge you anyway. However, without the witness’s cooperation, they may not be able to make the case against you. You need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to see what your options are.  Many times I have helped a client before they were ever charged… and kept them from being charged.  

As a defendant, you should not make a statement.

Many times a defendant comes into my office and says, “Well, the witness said it happened, so I just agreed to it.”

Here’s something you need to understand about criminal law. If the witness decides not to testify against you, or doesn’t show up for court, their statement does not come into play. Usually, the statement made by such a witness would be hearsay, and it can’t be used in court.

However, if the defendant makes a statement, that almost always comes in as a statement against their own interest.  We can file motions to keep these statements out, but it’s in the defendant’s best interest to not make a statement at all.   Just because somebody with you makes a statement doesn’t mean you should.  

I have clients that feel very pressured when they’re sitting in a police station.  The fear of not cooperating with an authority figure can break even the smartest and the strongest. In cases where you may feel pressured to write details about the situation, I want you to write only this:

I will not provide any written or oral statements without my attorney, Bill Byrnes, present. If I am not under arrest, I would like to collect my property and leave, please. If I am under arrest, I will remain silent until I speak to Bill.

This is the only thing that should be written down. The police does not have the authority to make plea deals on your behalf. You absolutely will not improve your situation by providing any statements.

Know your rights.

You do not have to make a statement. You don’t have to answer questions without your attorney present.

You should also know how long the police have by law to keep you without being officially arrested. When you are held for questioning, the police have 24 hours to charge you or release you.

This is basic in criminal law, and it is not affected by the witness’s decision to prosecute or not to prosecute.

You have a right to be represented by an attorney, too. Call us as soon as possible. We will protect your interests.