Who Presses Charges?

(File photo: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images)

(File photo: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images)

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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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.

George Zimmerman found himself in the news again, this time after his girlfriend called 911 saying he was brandishing a weapon, and that she feared for her life. She later filed an affidavit claiming she felt intimidated by the police to press charges and wants them dropped. The prosecution has said they will review her statements but wouldn’t automatically drop charges.

Why? If the victim doesn’t want to press the charges, why should the district attorney? 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 scott 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 Zimmerman’s girlfriend, she should rethink a volatile romance, whether or not it involved criminal behavior.

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