Can a Victim Drop New York Criminal Charges?

In television shows, a victim drops charges or refuses to press them, and a person who has been arrested for a crime, often the show’s “hero,” gets off scott free. 

That is, however, sheer fantasy here in the real world. In New York only the authorities can drop charges, or refuse to press them. Once the police are involved, the state is in control.

Law Enforcement Discretion

This myth arises in part because law enforcement is given discretionary powers. That is, a police officer can choose to let you off with a warning or arrest you.

A cop might choose to ask a victim if they want an arrest to be made, and may choose to let someone off with little more than a stern warning if they say no. But this is always the cop’s choice. 

Prosecutorial Decisions

Once the police decide to make an arrest, it is up to a prosecutor to decide whether to pursue the charges or drop them. The deciding factor is often whether or not there is enough evidence to pursue the case.

Involving a private NYC criminal defense lawyer at this stage can help save your freedom. A public defender doesn’t have time to go through the evidence with a fine-tooth comb, or to meet with the prosecutor to show them why their case is weak. A private attorney does, and may be able to get the prosecutor to agree that there’s no point in proceeding. An NYC criminal lawyer can also demonstrate that evidence against you was obtained illegally.

The prosecutor can either drop the charges with prejudice or without prejudice. Charges dropped with prejudice means you can’t be prosecuted for the same incident in the future, though you can certainly be prosecuted for different incidents whether they’re the same crime or not.

That is, you can’t be prosecuted for robbing the 7-Eleven on 1/14/2022 at 9:00 PM, but if you then get arrested for robbing another 7-Eleven on 1/19/2022 at 2:00 AM the prosecution is free to move forward.

If charges are dropped without prejudice the prosecutor retains the right to bring the charges against you at a later date if the police discovers more evidence.

The DA may also choose to dismiss the case at a later date, after charges have been filed. If that’s not possible, we may go to trial, work out a plea bargain, or work out a deferred prosecution agreement that keeps you out of jail.

In New York City, Any Crime is a Crime Against the State

The reason a victim can’t just give you a pass is because the law considers the crime to be a crime against society, not a crime against a victim. A victim is essentially just a witness in this crime.

It may seem a little counterintuitive, but that’s the way it works!

Bottom line: if you have been charged with a crime, you need to involve an attorney just as quickly as you possibly can. Reach out to Neil S. Ruskin, Attorney At Law, to take advantage of over 40 years of experience bringing criminal cases to good outcomes.

See also:

What to Do When Stopped By Officers

The Two Degrees of Assault

New Law Removes Bail for Many Arrests

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Neil S. Ruskin
188 Montague Street Suite 900
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Local: (718) 237-1547
Fax: 718-875-4011