Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Charlie Sheen arrested on domestic violence charges

Charlie Sheen, one of the highest paid actors on television, is no stranger to scandal. On December 25 his current wife, Brooke Mueller, called 911 after Sheen held a knife to her throat and threatened to have her killed, she said. Sheen was arrested on second-degree assault and menacing charges, both felonies, and criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.

Even though recent reports say Brooke Mueller is now recanting her story, saying that she was drunk, it is still possible for the state of Colorado to prosecute Sheen. At WomensLaw.org, people often email us to ask if their abusive husband or boyfriend will be charged with a crime even if they don't want to testify against him or if they change their story, saying that it was an accident, for example. However, if the abuser is charged with a crime, generally, it is not up to the victim whether or not the charges are dropped. It will be up to the district attorney. Sometimes, the police and the prosecutor go forward with a domestic violence case, even if the victim didn't ask them to or asks them not to. The reason why this happens is that the abuser has broken the law and the prosecutor has a duty to the state to prosecute those who break the law. Even though someone is the victim of the crime, the prosecutor represents the state’s interests, not theirs.

Some states or counties have a specific policy against victimless prosecution. But if I state does not, then there is not a cut and dry policy, whether they go forward will likely be determined by either how much other evidence they would have against the abuser without the victim's testimony -- such as a police officer's testimony, medical records from the hospital, witnesses' statements, etc.

To read more about domestic violence laws in your state, including filing for a restraining order or navigating the court system, please visit WomensLaw.org.

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