Understanding Domestic Violence Defense: Can Someone Be Prosecuted if The Victim Refuses to Testify at Trial?

Domestic violence charges are taken very seriously in Minnesota. If the police are called in, and the law has to get involved in settling a dispute between family members or domestic partners, then matters are no longer in the hands of the individuals. If arrests are made, then the state might file charges regardless of what the victim wants. The reason for this is because crimes aren’t just committed against individuals; they’re committed against the state. That’s why when you see court cases the titles are often a state, or the federal government, versus an individual.

Some victims of domestic violence may feel that by withholding their testimony they’re going to make a conviction more difficult. While this may be true in some cases, it certainly is not a universal truth.

Can Someone Be Prosecuted if The Victim Refuses to Testify at The Trial?

If a victim were required to testify in order for someone to be prosecuted for a violent crime, then murderers would never go to jail. In domestic violence cases, the victim can withhold his or her testimony at the trial, but that won’t stop the case from being prosecuted. Nor is it any guarantee that the person being charged with domestic violence won’t be convicted, which makes it a pretty poor domestic violence defense.

It’s important to remember that a victim’s testimony doesn’t start at the trial. As soon as the police are called, someone has gone on the record. If the victim calls 911, that call has been recorded. When police arrive on the scene, their cruiser and body cameras are shooting video of what they see. Anything that’s said to officers, and which goes in the report, is part of the official document that can be brought up during the proceedings.

So, while a domestic violence victim may refuse to testify in court, anything that was said in the moment is still on the record.

Does The Prosecution Need A Victim’s Testimony?

Testimony from victims is often viewed as the most important kind of evidence the prosecution can use. It is not always necessary to prove the facts of the case, though. Physical evidence, eyewitness testimony, testimony from officers who responded to the incident, and other forms of evidence can paint a vivid picture of what occurred during a domestic violence incident.

With that said, though, the more difficult the abuse is to detect, the more important a victim’s testimony becomes.

Physical abuse leaves marks, and if the victim needs medical care there will be records of when treatment happened. However, not all domestic abuse is physical. Threats to a family member or spouse’s safety, putting them in fear of harm, or just psychologically pressuring them can be more difficult to spot. This is especially true if there are no physical records of this kind of abuse happening, like text messages sent to the victim’s phone, harassing emails, or eyewitnesses who saw or heard threatening behavior taking place. In cases like this, a victim’s testimony can be a key piece of evidence if the domestic abuse case goes to trial.

With all of that said, however, a victim’s testimony is not a necessity for prosecuting someone for domestic violence. Not having that testimony might be a liability for the prosecution, but it is by no means a requirement for a domestic violence case to go forward.

If you find yourself caught up in a domestic violence case, and you’re not sure what you do, simply contact us today. Our legal experts will make sure your rights are protected, and that we will do everything in our power to give you the best defense possible.