What Happens to my Criminal Case if the Victim Recants?

with No Comments

What Happens to my Criminal Case if the Victim Recants?

Your criminal case may change if the victim recants, doesn’t show up for Court or stops cooperating with the prosecutor.

Unlike Law & Order SVU, criminal cases take a lot longer than an hour to progress from arrest to the resolution. Unfortunately, New York City Criminal Courts, it is not uncommon for a resolution to take a very long time. Sometimes, over two years. This is due to the delays by the prosecution and the shortage of judges.

During this lengthy wait , many things can happen. The prosecutor’s witnesses can lose interest in the outcome of your case. Additionally, they can change the initial story they told the police. Furthermore, they can recant their allegations. Finally, they can also move cross-county. And then change their phone number and forget to give it to the Assistant District Attorney.

Impact of Victim’s Recantation on Your Criminal Case

The victim’s recantation or unavailability for trial can have a great impact on your case. Specifically, the degree of the impact will depend on the rest of the Government’s case. Ask yourself, what other evidence does the prosecutor have against you? Then, contact us to discuss if this other evidence is sufficient for a conviction. In some cases, cases go to trial without a victim who testifies. These types of cases are called “evidence based prosecutions.”

For example, let’s say you are accused of robbing someone of their cell phone, scratching them and running away. Furthermore in this hypothetical the only evidence against you was the complainant’s statement. If the victim recants their allegations, you will get a much better plea offer if not an outright dismissal.

However, if in addition to the complainant, the prosecutor has video surveillance. Specifically, this video is crystal clear. Undoubtedly, it is you stealing the cell phone. Additionally, they have a full confession from you. Furthermore, police officer recovered the stolen cell phone from you. This police officer also saw scratches on the victim.

In this example, the case will likely go forward without a change in the offer. At the end of the day, the prosecutor’s offer on the case will depend on the quality of evidence they have. They don’t like to go to trial and lose.

Importance of Not Tampering With Witnesses on Your Criminal Case

It is important to note, that a prosecutor is able to ask the judge for a Sirois hearing if the prosecution’s witness refuses to testify or becomes unavailable due the conduct of the accused. If the prosecutor meets their burden of proof at the hearing, any prior sworn testimony by the witness is able to be introduced against the accused at trial without giving the defense the benefit of cross-examination. It is absolutely essential that during the pendency of the case, you fully abide by the order of protection. This means no contact with the witnesses. Because failure to comply with order of protection may result in additional charges against you. Additionally, you may lose the right to cross-examine during trial.


Your plea offer may change as a result of the victim changing their story or refusing to come to court. What happens to the criminal case if the victim recants, or changes their story depends on the other evidence. Under no circumstances, should you try to contact the witnesses against you. As this behavior may result in additional charges for Criminal Contempt as well as loss of ability to cross-examine the witness at trial.

If you would like to discuss your criminal defense, please contact us.