What Happens When A Domestic Violence Victim Does Not Appear?


Every day in traffic courtrooms across the country, a significant number of motorists choose to miss work and other obligations to appear in court and contest a traffic citation they received. These motorists are usually not savvy attorneys – in fact, many of them are not even represented by an attorney. Instead, they appear hoping that the officer that wrote them their ticket will not appear and their ticket will be dismissed. Without the crucial evidence of the officer’s testimony available to the prosecutor, he or she is unable to prove the motorist’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and thus will, in all likelihood, dismiss the ticket.

That is not what happened recently in the courtroom of Seminole County Judge Jerri Collins recently. There, a domestic violence victim who had been subpoenaed to testify against her attacker at trial and who had failed to appear in response to that subpoena appeared before Judge Collins to explain her absence. The victim’s pleas were apparently ineffectual, as the judge ordered the victim to be jailed for contempt of court. Is this an extreme example of what happens when a domestic violence victim does not appear to testify? What can happen with Florida domestic violence charges where the victim does not show up for trial?

A Range of Possibilities Where the Victim Does Not Appear 

It is safe to say that domestic violence cases are not traffic cases and the two are not handled the same. Yet both traffic cases and domestic violence cases do share one commonality: a conviction in both types of cases often depends on the testimony of one witness. What happens to your domestic violence case when that important witness (the victim) does not appear for trial will depend on the strength of the prosecution’s case against you and the prosecution’s desire to convict you of the offense with which you are charged. Some prosecutor’s offices and courts take the position that, if the victim does not wish to cooperate with the prosecution or appear in court, there is little reason to spend any additional resources in prosecuting the case.

Some possible outcomes that can occur if the victim in a domestic violence case does not appear include:

  • Proceeding with the trial based on the other evidence that prosecution has available to it;
  • A postponement of the trial until the victim can be located and brought to court;
  • An agreement to reduce your charge to a lesser offense;
  • Dismissal of the charges against you.

The primary problem that hinders the prosecution’s case if it chooses to proceed has to do with hearsay, or out-of-court statements, made by the victim. Generally speaking, if the victim does not appear to testify then his or her out-of-court statements made to police officers or others cannot be introduced at trial.

Do Not Play a Role in the Victim’s Failure to Appear 

You should never have any role, direct or otherwise, in a victim’s decision not to appear and testify. In other words, do not attempt to dissuade a victim from appearing to testify or threaten a victim of domestic violence. Not only can the hearsay statements of the victim be admitted and used against you, but you can face additional felony charges of tampering with a witness or victim.

Why It Pays to Have a Fort Walton Beach Criminal Defense Attorney On Your Side 

When you are facing domestic violence charges in Fort Walton Beach or elsewhere in Florida, skilled Florida dating attorney Stephen G. Cobb can help you achieve a favorable result in your case. Where the victim fails to appear for trial, he will challenge the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence to go forward and can, in some cases, negotiate a more favorable outcome or an outright dismissal of your case. Contact the Fort Walton Beach criminal law office of Stephen G. Cobb today at (850) 669-5882.

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