If I give the money back, can the alleged victim drop the charges?

On Behalf of | Oct 11, 2022 | Federal Crimes

When someone faces the full brunt of the federal government, they look for any way out. Financial fraud, regardless of whether it stems from the state or federal government, is just such a charge. You risk losing your reputation, freedom and maybe, every penny you saved over your entire life (and then, some).

The jailhouse lies

For those charged with financial fraud, your first indoctrination into this jailhouse lie will likely go something like this. “Just give the money back and beg them to drop the charges. Maybe, give them a bit more to drop the charges.” Though, this has two issues.

First, depending on what you said during this conversation, you may have admitted guilt. You have no friends in jail. That very same jailhouse friend will testify against you in a heartbeat. Even if you did not say anything incriminating, he may still say you did.

Second, this advice is not true. And, contacting the alleged victim could add more charges, especially if you are offering them money to not testify or participate in your prosecution. This is why you listen to your lawyer, not jailhouse friends.

Victims cannot charge or drop charges

The basis of this jailhouse lie is the idea that victims have some power over the criminal justice process that they do not actually possess. Victims report a crime, provide evidence and participate in the investigation and prosecution. However, they do not have the ability to charge anyone, let alone drop charges.

Can they just refuse to comply?

Again, if you are talking with the alleged victim, this could be seen as victim intimidation or tampering, which could lead to other charges. Talk to your New York City metro area lawyer before talking to them. Even if the alleged victim has a change of heart, their participation can be compelled by the prosecution through a subpoena. Indeed, they could even be jailed to compel testimony or participation in extreme cases.

Who charges then?

Depending on the nature of the alleged financial fraud and whether it is charged at the state or federal level, who charges can differ. For example, in some cases, you will be initially charged by the police after an investigation, and then, your case is sent to the prosecution, who can elect to keep those charges, charge something else (lessen or increase the original charges) or drop the charges partially or fully.

In other cases, law enforcement will gather evidence and make a recommendation for charges to the prosecutor. Then, the prosecutor will make a determination on whether they want to present this evidence to a grand jury; the grand jury will then decide to charge or not.