The criminal victim – can a victim seek criminal defense services?
Victim in a criminal case – As criminal defense lawyers, we typically deal with criminal defendants. But there is another class of individuals that criminal defense lawyers may provide services for – the prosecuting witness and/or victim in a criminal defense action.
Criminal Defense Attorney representing victim / prosecuting witness
Sometimes the victim in a criminal action feels that they need legal representation. Sometimes the victim wishes the case to be dismissed (see below); feels fearful of the government, the police, or the criminal justice system; is friends or family with the criminal defendant; is concerned about their own rights being violated; has questions or concerns about the subpoena that they received in the mail; etc. There may be countless reasons for which a victim in a criminal matter feels that he or she needs legal representation or legal consultation. If the victim wishes, they are free to seek advice from a criminal defense attorney. They are even free to hire a criminal defense lawyer to come to the court appearance with them on the date in which they are summoned to be there. Although probably not necessary, some victims feel that they would prefer to have access to a criminal defense attorney who understand the criminal justice system.
Remember that a victim or prosecuting witness in a criminal matter is NOT represented by the Assistant District Attorney. The ADA represents the State of North Carolina, NOT the victim. The victim is merely a witness in the State’s case against the criminal defendant. Regardless of how friendly or warm the ADA acts toward the witness, the ADA does not represent the victim, and the ADA’s job is not to protect the victim’s rights, the victim’s well-being, etc.
Victim wishes for criminal case to be dismissed
Although not a party to the action (click here to learn more), the victim in a criminal case often has a great deal of sway with the assistant district attorney assigned to the case. Their wishes are often taken into consideration. If they wish for a case to be dismissed and the case is not particularly heinous or egregious, the ADA may ultimately decide to dismiss the case based on the victim’s wishes, combined with other factors.
Other factors the Assistant District Attorney may consider
A criminal defense lawyer will discuss other factors with the assistant district attorney. Some of these factors include: no arrest was made; police wish for the case to be dismissed/never wanted a criminal action to result in the first place; police reports; no witnesses; no one was hurt; no property was damaged; criminal defendant has paid restitution; warrant was a private warrant (citizen warrant).
Private warrant/citizen warrant
Despite the arguably flagrant violations of individual rights and due process, North Carolina is one of the few states that allow for private citizens to initiate criminal action. We wrote a blog on that topic – click here to learn more about citizen-initiated criminal warrants. This enables a victim or prosecuting witness to easily obtain a warrant against an individual even in cases where police ran an investigation and found no probable cause to arrest. Does this seem strange to you? If it does – you are not alone. Private warrants often give an aggrieved party a second bite at the apple and often give the party an opportunity to wise up and figure out exactly how to frame oftentimes false allegations in a manner that may give rise to a finding of probable cause. Private warrants tend to be a frustrating aspect of North Carolina criminal law to your average criminal defense attorney or unbiased legal scholar.
Whatever the method by which the criminal action was brought forth, it is up to the prosecutor assigned to the case to scrutinize the merits of a criminal action.
If you are a criminal defendant, the victim, or the prosecuting witness in a criminal case in North Carolina or South Carolina and you wish to speak with a criminal defense lawyer, contact Gilles law to speak with a criminal defense attorney to discuss your rights and your options.