Can the Police press charges if the victim doesn’t want to in Florida?

Written by Criminal Defense Attorney Chris Beardslee

One of the most common misunderstandings of the Florida Criminal Justice system is how formal criminal charges are filed and who has the power to make the decision on whether someone will be prosecuted or not.
In Florida, citizens cannot decide whether or not to “press” formal criminal charges against another person. Citizens can certainly make statements, provide evidence, make requests, contact police, or contact the State Attorney and provide informationin the hope that charges are or are not filed, but the decision to formally charge someone is up to the Office of the State Attorney for that jurisdiction. State criminal charges in Florida are titled “State of Florida vs. Defendant”, not the name of a particular victim, witness, or police agency vs. defendant. Every County in Florida belongs to one of 20 judicial circuits and each circuit has an elected State Attorney who is charged with running that circuit’s State Attorney’s office to prosecute crimes.
Victims and witnesses may wish to communicate to law enforcement or The Office of the State Attorney that they do not want to participate in a criminal prosecution or file paperwork asking charges to be dismissed. The ultimate decision on whether to proceed is with the law enforcement agencies and Office of the State Attorney; it is not up to the victim or witness. The Office of the State Attorney may very well honor those requests or adhere to the wishes of witnesses, but the State Attorney’s Office represents The State of Florida’s interests first and foremost.
If you have been arrested or formally charged with a crime, this does not mean you have been convicted of a crime and you have the Constitutional right to defend yourself against the accusations. The Office of the State Attorney must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and overcome all defenses available in your case.
What if I have been arrested and the victim does not want to press charges?
After an arrest for a state charge in Florida, the Office of the State Attorney will evaluate the merits of the case and determine whether or not to file an Information formally charging the Defendant. This decision to file can be with or without the victim’s support. Having an experienced attorney on your side to evaluate your case, communicate the wishes of any witnesses, and to assist in ensuring that every witness voice is heard can be critical to having a case stopped before charges are filed. What a witness or victim says, and the manner in which they say it, can make all the difference in a case’s outcome.


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