Victim Is Not Key To Criminal Charges

By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – If the victim of a crime chooses not to press charges, is that the end of the case? You may be surprised.

In what was practically a made for the tabloids brawl, singers Chris Brown and Frank Ocean got into a fistfight over a parking spot. In what was a victory for civility, and a loss for those tabloids, Ocean revealed that he planned to take no legal action against Brown. According to a tweet Ocean put out, “No criminal charges. No civil lawsuit. Forgiveness, albeit difficult, is wisdom.”

Beautiful, But not necessarily accurate. Because, while a person has the ability to file and maintain a civil lawsuit against a wrongdoer, the decision on whether to pursue criminal charges isn’t necessarily up to the victim of the alleged crime. It’s the state or the feds who decide when a crime has been committed and if there’s enough evidence to prove the case.

That’s surprising to a lot of people but makes sense when you think about the increase in victim intimidation that could happen if a person could get off scot free provided his victim doesn’t want to file charges.

While it’s much more difficult for authorities to prove a case if the victim, who is usually the prime witness, won’t testify, that doesn’t mean that they can’t if they have other sources of evidence.

As for Frank Ocean, whether a criminal charge is filed or not, forgiveness is still divine.

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