What Happens To My Criminal Case If The Victim Recants
Being charged with a crime is scary. It’s even more confusing and stressful when the person who accused you changes their story. If the alleged victim takes back their statement, it can really impact your case. So what actually happens if the victim says they lied or made a mistake? Will the charges just go away? Unfortunately, it’s not always so simple.
Why Might A Victim Recant Their Statement?
There’s a few common reasons why an alleged victim might recant their original statement to the police:
- They lied or exaggerated in the first place, for whatever reason
- They feel guilty or bad about getting the defendant in trouble
- The defendant apologized, so they want to drop the charges
- They’re scared of retaliation or more abuse from the defendant
- Someone threatened or pressured them to change their story
- They don’t want to deal with the hassle of going to trial
Only the victim knows why they really changed their mind. But for the legal system, the reason doesn’t always matter.
Can The Charges Still Go Forward?
Yes, even if the victim says they lied or takes back their statement, the prosecutor can sometimes still pursue the criminal charges. Here’s why:
- The original statement to police is still evidence. The victim changing their story later doesn’t erase their first account.
- Police and prosecutors have a duty to uphold the law and protect the public, no matter what the victim wants.
- There may be other evidence beyond the victim’s statement – witnesses, videos, documents, etc.
However, without the victim’s cooperation, it becomes much harder for the prosecution to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. The credibility of the remaining evidence will be questioned.
What Factors Are Considered?
When deciding whether to keep prosecuting after the victim recants, some factors the prosecutor looks at include:
- Is there evidence like injuries, damage, or disruption that backs up the original statement?
- Are there eyewitnesses besides the victim?
- Is there physical evidence like DNA, fingerprints, weapons?
- Are there documents, texts, emails, or posts that corroborate the allegations?
- Does the defendant have a criminal record or history of similar acts?
The stronger the remaining evidence is, the more likely the prosecutor will move forward even without the victim’s cooperation. But in many cases, the victim’s testimony is essential, so recanting can really hurt the prosecution’s case.
What About Domestic Violence Cases?
Domestic violence cases have some unique dynamics when a victim recants:
- Victims often feel pressure to protect their partner or preserve the relationship
- Abusers frequently threaten or intimidate victims from testifying
- There may be financial dependence making victims reluctant to cooperate
- The cycle of violence causes victims to minimize abuse or take blame
Prosecutors tend to be aggressive pursuing domestic violence charges even without the victim’s cooperation. Recanting statements are common due to the complex psychology of abusive relationships. Police are also trained to spot signs of intimidation or coercion.
What Could Happen At Trial?
If the prosecutor goes ahead with trial despite the victim recanting, a few things could happen:
- The victim might be subpoenaed to testify but could keep refusing to cooperate on the stand
- The original statement to police may be allowed as evidence, but the recanting can also be introduced to raise doubts
- Other evidence will be relied on more heavily, subject to scrutiny about credibility
- The defense will highlight the victim’s recanting to weaken the prosecution’s case
While getting a conviction is harder without the victim’s testimony, it’s not impossible if there’s strong remaining evidence. But recanting often destroys the credibility of the charges.
What About False Accusations?
If a victim admits they totally fabricated the accusations or lied in their original statement, the defendant could have a claim of malicious prosecution. However, recanting itself doesn’t always mean the first statement was false. The recantation could be the lie.
Prosecutors have to be careful when victims recant, especially in domestic violence cases. Some are false accusations, but many real victims recant out of fear, manipulation, or misguided protection of their abuser.
Should I Talk To A Defense Attorney?
If you’re facing criminal charges and the alleged victim has recanted their statement, talk to a defense lawyer right away. An experienced attorney can review the prosecution’s remaining evidence and build the strongest defense. This may involve discrediting the original statement, highlighting inconsistencies, and raising reasonable doubt about your guilt.
While a recanting victim seems like good news, the case could still move forward. An attorney can advise you of your options and legal rights. Don’t wait to seek help fighting the charges.
Can The Victim Face Charges For Recanting?
It’s possible but not automatic. If the police had the alleged victim sign an affidavit consistent with their original statement, and then they recant, law enforcement may seek criminal charges against them for false reporting.
However, recanting itself doesn’t always mean the first statement was a lie. There could be valid reasons for the change in story. Prosecutors have to determine if clear evidence shows the original statement was intentionally false, not just recanted.
What If I Already Pled Guilty?
If you already pled guilty or no contest based on the original victim statement, it becomes very difficult to undo your conviction if they later recant. You would have to file a post-conviction appeal arguing your plea was coerced or unintelligent based on flawed evidence. Your lawyer would have to show the recantation proves actual innocence. This is a heavy legal burden, so don’t count on the recantation itself getting your plea overturned.
- Victims may recant for many reasons, but it doesn’t always kill the criminal case
- Prosecutors look at the remaining evidence to decide whether to keep pursuing charges
- Recanting happens a lot in domestic violence cases due to psychology of abuse
- The trial can still go forward, but recanting hurts credibility and raises doubts
- False accusations are possible but recanting doesn’t automatically mean the victim lied
- Talk to a defense lawyer right away for help responding to a victim recantation
The victim changing their story doesn’t guarantee the charges will be dropped. But skilled defense counsel can use a recantation to possibly get charges dismissed or raise reasonable doubt of guilt at trial. Don’t wait to get legal advice.