What If a Domestic Violence Victim Refuses to Testify?

Posted by Ronald D. HeddingMay 03, 2022

We are often asked how can prosecutors still prove me guilty of a California domestic violence case if my significant other refuses to cooperate? Domestic violence, called “DV,” is a crime committed against someone you share a close relationship. It is the most commonly charged crime in California and includes many different laws.

What If a Domestic Violence Victim Refuses to Testify?

What separates domestic violence from other crimes is the close relationship between the two parties. The alleged victim has to be any of the following:

  • current or former spouse,
  • boyfriend or girlfriend,
  • cohabitant,
  • family members,
  • former dating partner,
  • parent of your child.

Readers should note that DV is rarely a single incident. Instead, it's most often a long cycle of violence. It's common for law enforcement to respond to a 911 call from the same person at the same address involving the same perpetrator multiple times.

Most domestic violence charges in California are “wobblers” that can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony crime. It's crucial to note that the victim can't “drop” the charges. It's not their decision to make and is discussed further below.

To be convicted of a domestic violence-related charge, prosecutors have to prove your actions against the alleged victim were willful, and there was a relationship described above. In this article by our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys, we will examine this topic in more detail below.

What Are the Common California Domestic Violence Charges?

Domestic violence is a broad legal term covering many situations and laws in California. The most commonly charged DV crimes include:

  • Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC – domestic battery,
  • Penal Code 273.5 PC – corporal injury to a spouse,
  • Penal Code 273.6 PC – violating a restraining order,
  • Penal Code 422 PC – criminal threats,
  • Penal Code 368 PC – elder abuse,
  • Penal Code 273d PC – child abuse,
  • Penal Code 273(a) PC – child endangerment,
  • Penal Code 278 PC – child abduction,
  • Penal Code 136.1 PC – witness intimidation,
  • Penal Code 591 PC – damage a phone line,
  • Penal Code 646.9 PC – stalking,
  • Penal Code 653m PC – making annoying phone calls.

Another common domestic violence situation includes harassment by posting damaging or harmful information online that violates California Penal Code 647(j)(4) revenge porn laws.

Can a Domestic Violence Victim Drop the Charges?

No. This is one of the most significant issues in domestic violence that people come to me with all the time, and they are very confident when they arrive. They say my significant other doesn't want me prosecuted.

Can a Domestic Violence Victim Drop the Charges?

They want the charges dismissed.  Can we get them dismissed very quickly?  I look at them and tell them no.  The prosecutors are usually going to prosecute the case anyway.

Then they tried to figure out how they would have the evidence to prosecute the case if my significant other won't cooperate.  That's what I want to talk about a little bit so people understand how things work in a criminal court related to a domestic violence case.

First and foremost, you have to understand that it's not your significant other against you, even though it might seem like it sometimes, but it's the People of the State of California against you. 

So, if you've got a DV case in Los Angeles, the prosecutors are prosecuting the case against you, and here in LA county – and I've been doing this for 30 years – they are very tough on domestic violence cases.  There's a policy to convict people:

  • get them on domestic violence probation,
  • make them do the Batterers' Intervention Program,
  • block them from owning, using, or possessing a weapon for ten years.

Many other problems can occur if you're convicted of a domestic violence case.

Prosecutors Don't Care About DV Victim Cooperation

The prosecutors don't care if your significant other won't cooperate.  I'll give you one example of what they can do.  They will subpoena your significant other. If the person doesn't show up, they can issue a body attachment, have the sheriff go out and grab them and make them show up at a potential trial or preliminary hearing, whether it's filed as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Domestic Violence Victim Cooperation with Prosecutors

Once they get that person on the stand, they effectively get their testimony in.  Because if the person gets on the stand and lies, they'll call the police officer who took their statement and ask that police officer when you got there, what did you see?  What did you hear? 

That police officer is going to say what they saw and heard.  If they saw the person beat up, injured, and crying, the whole house messed up.

Then they hear the person tell them that their significant other hit them, that testimony is coming in. The prosecutors will argue that the person doesn't want to testify now because that's their significant other, and they feel bad about it. Maybe they're the one that pays all of the bills and takes care of the family, whatever the case may be.  So, that's one example.

Reviewing Police Bodycam Evidence

Another example is that sometimes the prosecutors can't get the significant other into court, so there are different ways that they're able to prove the case. One great example, people thought bodycams would help the defense, and they sometimes do, but it helps the prosecutors because now they've got the person on videotape telling their story to the police.

Often, they can get that into evidence against a potential defendant.  That becomes a massive problem for the defense if they've got the person on video. 

Another way to do it is if there's an independent witness that saw what happened.  That's another way.  If the person that's arrested admitted that they committed the crime and hit the other person, that would be another way to prove it.

Reviewing the Details of Your Domestic Violence Case

So, there are different ways to prove the case.  You're going to have to sit down with an attorney like me who's been doing this for 30 years so that we can talk about the specific circumstances in your domestic violence case.

Los Angeles Domestic Violence Defense Attorney

We also need to look at which court in LA county the case is pending in, who the judge is, and who the prosecutors are – then we can get a feel for whether or not you can beat the case. When guilt is not in doubt, it might be the type of case that you will have to negotiate through your attorney, resolve and move on with your life.

Perhaps we can negotiate with prosecutors for reduced charges or a case dismissal. Further, through prefiling intervention, we might be able to negotiate with law enforcement and the District Attorney to persuade them not to file formal criminal charges in the first place, called a "DA reject."

So, you've come to the right place if you're charged with domestic violence in LA county.  I've been handling these cases since the early 1990s.  I've worked for the district attorney's office.  I've worked for a Superior Court judge, and since 1994, I've been defending people just like you. 

Pick up the phone.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County, and we offer a free case evaluation by phone or by filling out the contact form.

Related Content: What Happens If You Were Arrested for Domestic Violence?