Recanting Of Allegations Is A Common Occurrence In A Domestic Violence Case

Interviewer: What about a situation where the alleged victim makes an accusation and then, later they just want to drop the case, during their time of the arrest or like during the case, has that ever happened and can that happen?

Paul Geller: That happens all the time and it’s probably, I would say to some extent, it happens more often than the cooperative victim, if you will.  In fact, I was in court the other day watching a trial where the “Victim” took the stand and she articulated exactly what you just described in front of a jury. Often times If the husband or the boyfriend is the defendant and the female or a wife is the alleged victim, it can happen because he is the breadwinner in the household and it can happen for fear of retaliation a lot of the times, and the experts will describe this as the cycle of violence.  There’s an initial call to police, there’s anger, there are other types of emotions that take part.

The Cycle Of Violence Involves the Stages of Regret and Recanting Where a Spouse is Involved

As you continue around the cycle, there is regret and recanting because of the loss of the stability such that there was of the relationship prior to all of this happening and this continues in the form of a cycle. That happens very, very often where the person will take the stand and/or go to the police later and say, “You know, I just want these charges to be dropped.  I don’t want this person to be placed in jail and I don’t want anything bad happen to them, that’s not how this happened.  From a legal standpoint, very infrequently will that make any difference whatsoever on the prosecution of the case.  It’s not going to stop the police from investigating a case, it’s not going to stop the prosecution from filing or prosecuting the case.  What it does is it tells them that they now have an uncooperative victim.

The Alleged Victim Can Be Held Liable for Providing False Information if Allegations are Recanted

For legal purposes, if the person is brought in the court to testify and they say the prosecutor perhaps has a report that this person called the police, this person told the police that the defendant hit her, what will happen is the person will come into court and say “I never told the police that and that’s not what I said”.  And if they have a 911 call, certainly they can impeach that person. In a situation that we’re talking about right now, whether it’s recanting, a lot of the times they will say, “Well, I just wanted him to get in trouble because he wasn’t listening to me or I didn’t really mean what I was saying then”, and the response from the prosecutors typically is that, “Most people will call the police as a last resort when there’s a fear and an active desperation that they need immediate assistance”.  So, that’s the first way to respond to that.

Prosecutors Do Have a Mechanism in Place to Address Recanting of Allegations

When it comes to the recanting victim who says, “Well, I never told the police that, I never said that”, depending on who the investigating agency is, they will either have a recording to show that that’s not true, that the person really did say that, or what they will say is they will do what’s called “greening” the witness.  They will read the question that was posed by the police officer and then, “Did you also respond in the following way: Yes, I was hit.  Yes, this happened to me etc.?”, and if the person says “No”, they will just go right through all of the interview and after the person says “No.  I never said any of those things”, they will call in the investigating officer to then basically impeach what the witness just said. Then, they’ll follow that up with an expert who talks about the cycle of violence and why the person would be recanting. So, prosecutors have in place a mechanism to address that situation.

It Can Be Very Difficult For the Prosecutors and Defendants to Deal With Such Situations

That situation becomes difficult when what they’re saying in the form of “Recanting” is actually true.  So, it can be very difficult all the way around for prosecutors and for defendants as to how to deal with those situations. Often times, immediately after a situation like this, an alleged victim may feel like “Well, I’ll just go to the police and tell them now that I don’t want this person being prosecuted”, that may help; generally speaking, it does not because once again, you’re simply putting the prosecution and the police on notice that they have an alleged victim that doesn’t want to cooperate. There are procedural requirements that are in place to deal with that type of situation both by prosecutors and also by defense attorneys to handle a recanting victim that could benefit both sides.  And generally speaking, going to the police and simply saying “I don’t want this person to be charged anymore” doesn’t make the case go away.

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