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My spouse faces domestic violence charges. Can I drop them?

Dealing with any form of abuse in the home - including physical, emotional or financial abuse - can be exceptionally challenging. Georgia residents typically want to avoid legal trouble, so they sometimes avoid getting law enforcement involved in the altercations. Even though an abuser is committing a crime, many victims want to protect that person, especially if he or she is a spouse or other close family member. Not surprisingly, there is a huge amount of emotional stress involved in these types of situations. So, in order to keep the peace, can an abuser's domestic violence charges be dropped by the victim?

It is the police - not the victim - who issues the charges, so once the police get involved, it's often too late to drop charges after they have been made. The victim does not have the authority to drop the charges because domestic violence, like all crimes, is an issue involving the state. This means that the Prosecutor's Office is the only entity that has the power to drop the charges or move forward with the case, regardless of the victim's wishes.

However, the victim's testimony can play a part in whether or not the abuser faces charges. The victim may be asked to appear in court or provide documentation. Once a decision is made, the victim may even be asked if he or she agrees with the decision and provide evidence as to why or why not.

If the abuser is set free, it's important for victims to take advantage of the protections available to them. A restraining order can provide incentive for the abuser to stay away from the victim while providing safety for children, if any are involved in the situation. Physical abuse - even a one-time incident - can cause serious physical injuries and emotional trauma, and it's important that victims understand their legal rights.

Source: FindLaw, "Can the victim drop domestic violence charges?," accessed July 25, 2015

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