Do victims have a say in what gets charged?

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Does the victim of a crime have anything to do with whether the prosecutor chooses to file criminal charges? How about which charges to file?


Prosecutors often consider a victim’s views when deciding whether to file a criminal charge or how serious a charge to file. This is especially true when organized con­stituencies of crime victims exist. Organized groups often pressure prosecutors to go hard on certain types of crimes, on pain of campaigning against the prosecutor at the next election. For example, people who feel strongly about drunk driving and spousal assault victims have formed groups in many communities. A prosecutor deciding whether to charge a case as a DUI or a lesser charge (such as reckless driving), or to file a spousal assault charge (or to file it as a misdemeanor or a felony) is likely to consider the reactions both of the group and of the individual victim.

The victim's willingness to testify and generally cooperate with the police and prosecutor may also be a factor. A reluctant witness may be of limited usefulness to the prosecution.


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