In a domestic violence case, some people believe that it is up to the victim whether or not charges will be placed. This is not the case, however. In the State of Washington, a person can be charged with domestic violence even if the alleged victim does not want to be involved.
When police are called in response to a domestic violence incident, they will make a police report of their findings. It is up to the City Attorney's office to review this report and decide whether or not they want to file criminal charges. This means that domestic violence charges are based on the prosecutor's opinion and not that of the victim. As such, only the prosecutor can be the one to decide whether or not charges are dropped. Additionally, the judge must approve the decision as well.
Though a victim who does not wish to press charges has no control over whether or not charges are placed against the defendant, their cooperation is key. The victim in any domestic violence case is treated as a witness. They will be subpoenaed to testify in court even if they do not want to. Uncooperative witnesses in most domestic violence cases are often the key witnesses. Their lack of cooperation could make charges difficult to prove. In some cases, the prosecutor may even attempt to have the victim arrested if they refuse to cooperate by giving their testimony.
One of the most notable examples of this is the 2009 case against singer Chris Brown when he was charged with assault after fighting with his then-girlfriend Rihanna. Many fans were confused as to why the relationship between the two was not more strained after his conviction. However, Rihanna never pressed charges against Brown. Though she did testify in court, the prosecution's case was based on physical evidence and the police report.
While this measure is done to protect domestic violence victims who may be unwilling to get help or are afraid to press charges on their own, this can also lead to complications. If you are facing domestic violence charges in Seattle, contact a defense attorney right away.