Interviewer: When the police are called, will there always be an arrest made?
Paul Tafelski: If somebody claims that the other person touched them in any kind of a way –which could be grabbing them, preventing them from leaving, poking them, pulling their hair, scratching their face, some kind of physical altercation, however brief – there is usually going to be somebody arrested.
Again, that’s the case in most places in metropolitan Detroit, and I mean Wayne, Oakland and Macomb County. However, in some of the more upscale and conservative areas such as Rochester, Troy, Birmingham, Bloomfield, Novi, Plymouth, Canton, Northville, Royal Oak, those areas, they’re going to be arrested almost certainly. In some of the other areas, most likely they’ll be arrested, but may still be a few more old-fashioned officers who will use their discretion to decide whether or not it’s safe to leave the people alone.
From my perspective, if someone has seen how serious these charges are, I appreciate those remaining officers who are not afraid to use their own judgment and decide if somebody needs to be arrested or not. They’re becoming more and more rare just because they’re all afraid to lose their jobs themselves.
Decision to Prosecute
Interviewer: At what point could a case be dropped? If the person gets arrested, can the other person drop the case?
Paul Tafelski: That’s a good question. Typically, once you file a complaint with the police, you become a witness. You’re not in charge of the case. It’s not up to you whether it gets dropped. You are simply a witness for the prosecution. The answer is no, you cannot tell them to drop the case. They will consider your thoughts. They’ll consider what you tell them if you’re the victim of the crime, but in reality the prosecutors do not just drop these cases once they’re charged.
Typically, the way these cases will get dropped is if the complaining witnesses refuse to testify, if they had lied to the police, which they often do, or exaggerate their stories to the police. They realize that technically they may have committed a crime by filing a false police report when they gave an exaggerated or false statement. So then sometimes they will not testify and that will lead to the case being dropped.
Sometimes the defense can produce enough evidence for the prosecutor to realize that the person was not really guilty. Maybe they were defending themselves and acting in self-defense, or it was just a mutual physical altercation that both parties were engaged in. Sometimes the prosecutor can be convinced not to proceed. Then other times it has to be defeated through an actual trial where you convince the jury that what the defendant did was not a crime.
Those are your main ways of beating these types of cases. There’s also, for first offenders, in a lot of courts, the opportunity to try and negotiate a deferral or an under advisement status of a domestic violence charge so that if they complete probation then the case will be dismissed and they won’t have a conviction on their record. At least there’ll be no public record of a conviction and that protects them from employers and employers that are being able to see the conviction. There are a lot of different things that can be done to deal with these cases. They’re not hopeless situations, but they are serious and they can have long-term repercussions.