Thursday, February 09, 2017

FLORIDA PROSECUTORS MAY PURSUE CRIMINAL CHARGES TO TRIAL EVEN WHEN VICTIMS DON'T

Florida prosecutors often proceed toward a full prosecution even when the victim does not want to cooperate. In some crimes such as sexual battery on a minor or child pornography this makes sense because the victim isn't in a position to reliably gauge the full consequences of the prosecution. In other cases such as spouse battery the state has an interest in making certain that in the future the family unit is not subject to violent behavior. 

Prosecutor & Defendant at Trial
In fact in most cases that allege violent behavior such as aggravated battery or assault the state of Florida will look at the victim's desire to pursue prosecution as little more than a recommendation. In other violent acts such as murder, vehicular manslaughter or DUI manslaughter the desires of the deceased victim's family are considered only very late in the process after a plea or conviction and before sentencing to determine not whether charges should be pursued but how much prison time, if any, the family wants the presiding sentencing judge to give.

But why does the state sometimes prosecute nonviolent crimes such as scheme to defraud, fraud or grand theft even when a victim does not want to proceed? In truth in these cases the lack of victim cooperation can prove insurmountable to proving the case before a jury so are much less likely to be pursued by Florida state prosecutors who believe civil remedies are therefore sufficient. But even here it would depend on the nature of the theft. For example, someone found to have embezzled the youth baseball players fund is apt to be prosecuted despite unanimous victim support for non-prosecution as even prosecutors are arguably human and apt to want to throttle the perpetrator despite the wishes of the victims.

In Florida victims can't force dismissal of criminal charges by signing requests not to prosecute the defendant and delivering that request timely to the prosecutor. Instead the request is kept by the state attorney to help justify a no filing of the criminal charges or as evidence of the victim's possible lack of enthusiasm should things go wrong later. Nor can a victim control the outcome of a criminal case by trying to evade a witness subpoena for testimony at trial with much hope of success since occasionally judges punish the victim with jail after citing contempt of court where proof of evasion is evident.
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