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What Happens When a Domestic Violence Victim Doesn’t Want to Press Charges?


Domestic violence charges are taken seriously in Kentucky. If the police are called to your home, there is a good chance that the alleged abuser may be arrested. The police may arrest the person if they have reasonable suspicion the person broke the law—even if a victim does not want to press charges.

Domestic Violence Laws in Kentucky

Kentucky Revised Statute §403.720 defines domestic abuse as:

  • Physical injury
  • Serious physical injury
  • Sexual abuse
  • Stalking
  • Assault
  • Strangulation
  • Infliction of fear of imminent injury, sexual abuse, assault, or strangulation

Domestic violence applies to conduct between unmarried couples or family members. The statute defines a family member as:

  • Spouse or former spouse
  • Unmarried partners
  • Grandparent
  • Parent
  • Child
  • Grandchild
  • Stepchild
  • Any child living in the same house when the child is the alleged victim

It is a criminal offense to carry out any of the listed acts against a family member. The alleged abuser can be arrested and face serious criminal penalties for a conviction, including jail time and fines.

The court could also impose probation, court-ordered counseling, and house arrest. In addition, the victim could proceed to civil court to obtain a protective order.

However, there are also other consequences of a domestic violence conviction. The person will have a criminal record that follows them for the rest of their life. A criminal record could impact your career choices, child custody cases, professional licenses, gun ownership rights, and housing choices.

What Happens if the Victim States They Do Not Want to Press Charges?

Kentucky does not require police officers to arrest a person who is being accused of domestic violence. However, if the officers believe they have probable cause for an arrest, they can make the arrest—even if the victim does not want to press charges.

Once the police officers make an arrest, it is out of the hands of the victim. The victim might state they want the charges dropped, but it is up to the prosecutor whether or not to proceed with the criminal case.

If the prosecutor believes they have enough evidence to obtain a conviction, they may move forward with the case. The prosecutor may proceed if they believe the defendant could harm the victim or another person.

What Happens if the Victim Refuses to Cooperate?

It depends on the strength of the evidence. The prosecutor may believe they have a solid case without the victim’s testimony.

For example, there could be witnesses that are willing to testify about the defendant’s actions. The police officers might have witnessed evidence of abuse, such as cuts, bruises, or other injuries.

The victim may be subpoenaed to appear in court and testify. If the victim ignores the subpoena, the victim may be arrested and brought before a judge for contempt of court. When a victim is compelled to testify, the prosecutor may attack the testimony with prior statements if the victim tries to change their story at trial.

On the other hand, if the victim refuses to cooperate and the state’s case is weak, the prosecutor may choose to drop the charges, especially if the defendant has no prior criminal record. In either case, the victim’s desire to proceed with the case or have the charges dismissed might be considered, but the victim has no standing to force the prosecutor in a specific direction.

Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges

Just because you have been arrested on domestic violence charges does not mean that you are guilty. A family member may accuse you of domestic violence out of anger or to seek revenge. Domestic violence accusations may be a way of gaining an advantage in a family court case.

If you are arrested for domestic violence, contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately. Making a statement before talking to a lawyer is not in your best interest. Your best step is to remain silent except for asking for an attorney.

Several defenses might apply in your domestic violence case, such as:

  • Lack of probable cause
  • Illegal search and seizure
  • Self-defense of yourself or other people
  • False allegations
  • Lack of evidence to prove domestic violence

A domestic violence lawyer searches for evidence to prove your innocence and attacks the state’s evidence on various grounds. Do not contact the accuser or discuss the case with anyone other than your lawyer’s office.

If the evidence against you is overwhelming, an experienced attorney may be able to get you a favorable plea deal. The prosecutor may be more willing to work out a deal if they know you have a skilled attorney handling your case.

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