There is a somewhat common misconception that victims of crimes — or their families — have the power to drop charges against a criminal defendant. This is not the case in Missouri.

Victims often have some input. For example, their testimony could provide one of the major pieces of evidence for the prosecution. However, the system in this state does not give them power over the procedural aspects of a trial.

The reason the victim is unable to drop charges is that victims do not bring charges in the first place. Rather, the state itself — the government of Missouri — manages criminal prosecution. A publicly appointed attorney acts as the representative of and decisionmaker for the people, supported by various investigatory bodies and law-enforcement agencies.

In Missouri, the highest position of prosecutor is known as the Attorney General. As mentioned in an informational resource published by that office, prosecutors have the power to stop a case any time by entering a special type of motion into the official record.

As you might imagine, this cancellation of the case is not often one of the prosecution’s goals. Were you ever involved in a criminal case as a defendant, the state would likely do everything in its power to secure a conviction against you.

The possibility of getting the prosecution to drop your charges would probably be slim without a full legal understanding of the situation. Additionally, it would be counterproductive to attempt to convince a victim to drop charges, as these parties have no real control over that decision. This type of action could also result in further consequences.

Every criminal charge should be taken on a case-by-case basis. Please do not think of this as specific legal advice. It is only meant as general information.