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Woods & Brangwin, PLLC

632 Valley Mall Parkway
East Wenatchee, Washington 98802

Ph. (509) 663-3915
Fx. (509) 663-6064

No Victim? Assault Charge Dropped???
Written by Beth Bratton
Monday, 15 March 2010 08:00
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If the victim wants the assault charge dropped, then the case gets dismissed right? Wrong. The victim being unwilling to cooperate or testify will not resolve a case, however, it is certainly a powerful and useful factor in a case and helpful to the defendant. Nonetheless, most defendants are under the impression that if they are charged with an assault charge and the victim does not want to participate in the case, then it will get dismissed. Unfortunately, this is not how it works. The ultimate decision to dismiss the case lies with the prosecutor. So, if you have been charged with an assault, hold tight, because it is going to be a long process dealing with this type of charge, especially in Chelan County.


In most of my assault cases, the victim does not want to cooperate with the prosecutor. The next challenge is to negotiate the case with the prosecutor and get the best resolution for my client. Favorable resolutions that I strive for would be an outright dismissal, an amendment to a lesser charge, or an agreement to a stipulated order of continuance (SOC). An SOC is a contract that my client enters into that basically indicates he or she will not have any criminal law violations for 24 months and will comply with any conditions set forth in the agreement. The case is in essense continued for this period of time. At the end of the 24 month period, if all conditions are met, the prosecutor will dismiss the case. These negotiations and deals all depend on my client’s criminal history.

Moreover, once the charges are filed and a defendant enters a plea of not guilty, the race is on to resolve the case. So, what happens after the not guilty plea? The next court hearing is called a pre-jury trial conference. Normally, at the pre-jury trial conference the case will not get resolved because the prosecutor has not yet been forced to speak to the alleged victim and the potential witnesses involved with the case. Sometimes witnesses and victims do make the initial contact with the prosecutor, of course, but regardless the prosecuting attorney is still often unwilling to resolve the case. Thus, we march on to the readiness hearing.

Throughout this process, the prosecutor will subpoena all witnesses that support the prosecutor’s case. The subpoenas are court orders that require the attendance of witnesses and/or victims to testify and if not complied with the prosecutor may request the court to issue a material witness warrant.

Once the prosecutor has the victim and the potential witnesses subpoenaed, the prosecutor can and will use the material witness warrant power to bring the individuals into court to testify at trial if they refuse to honor the subpoena and appear. I have seen this request for a material witness warrant quite frequently. If the individual and/or victim do not honor the subpoena, a warrant may be issued for their arrest. On the other hand, if the individual and/or victim does agree to come testify yet changes their story, the victim could potentially face a criminal charge of perjury. A lot of times this is a slippery slope for the alleged victim.

If the case gets to this point in the proceedings, this is very difficult and challenging for all parties. There are many times were the victim does not want to cooperate and refuses to come testify, yet the prosecutor will not dismiss the case. The reluctance on not dismissing the case often happens when the defendant has prior assaultive history on his or her record. This is a catch twenty-two because I have had cases where the prosecutor has moved to dismiss but the district court judges won’t accept the dismissal because of my client’s prior assaultive history. It is amazing sometimes what the judges can do from the bench.

If the defendant who is charged does not have any criminal history, the prosecutor may be more willing to offer a better deal. These deals typically pass the bench without any restraint. It just goes to say that the assault charge will all depend on the facts and circumstances of each case and the criminal history of the individual charged.

Most prosecutors do not like to dismiss assault charges, even if the alleged victim is not willing to participate. That is why you need an attorney who knows how the system works and who will not settle until the best resolution is reached for your case. As a dedicated defense attorney, I thoroughly investigate assault charges and interview relevant parties as well as the victim. I understand the seriousness and implications that can follow an assault conviction. I will fight, as I have done many times before, against material witness warrants. I will also seek out information that we can use to impeach potential witnesses at trial who may testify for the prosecution.

Assault cases need attorneys who are going to “work” the case and “fight” for the individual who has been criminally charged. At Woods & Brangwin, PLLC, we take pride in fighting the battles for our clients.



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