On February 15, 2014, Baltimore Ravens NFL player, Ray Rice, and his then fiancee, Janay Palmer, were both arrested on simple assault charges at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City. Since the video of the incident has appeared, Mr. Rice's charges were elevated to Aggravated Assault, and he was indicted on that charge on March 27, 2014. Mr. Rice and Ms. Palmer were married the next day.
Domestic violence is an extremely hot issue in every District Attorney's office in New York State, as well as other states. Although I, Luke Scardigno, a Criminal Defense Attorney in Kew Gardens, Queens, New York, handle Domestic Violence cases in other counties of New York, such as, Nassau, Suffolk, Brooklyn (Kings County), Bronx, and Manhattan (New York County), I will focus this blog on Queens County.
In Queens County, there is a specialized Domestic Violence prosecution bureau handling these types of cases. They focus primarily on Domestic Violence cases between family members. One of the most asked questions I received from clients charged with Domestic Violence is "How can I be prosecuted if my family member does not want me prosecuted?" The answer to that question is the following: when an alleged crime is committed, the case in Criminal Court is titled "The People of the State of New York against John Doe". It is not the complainant family member against the client charged with the alleged Domestic Violence. The complainant is solely a witness for the prosecutor's office.
Another question you may be asking yourself is "How can the District Attorney's office prosecute me if the complainant family member does show up to Court to testify against me?" Well, the answer to that question is that the District Attorney will serve the complainant family member with a subpoena to show up to Court. If the complainant family member does not abide by the subpoena, the District Attorney can have the witness brought in with a Material Witness Order. Also, there is case law that allows the prosecutor to prosecute a case without the actual complainant family member testifying in Court. This is a legal lesson in and of itself. However, to keep it short and sweet, if the District Attorney has an excited utterance (a 911 call) by the complaining witness, and evidence of a physical injury (photos, police testimony), the prosecutor can move forward against the accused Defendant without the actual victim coming to Court and testifying. The reason such prosecution is now allowed is because how often the Domestic Violence victim changes his or her mind to come to Court and prosecute the accused Defendant.
Please feel free to contact me, Luke Scardigno, if you have any questions about Domestic Violence or any other criminal or legal issues.