The Macomb Daily reported on June
17, 2007 that a Macomb County judge fined 32-year-old Theresa Owen $500 when she
appeared and asked the court to dismiss the domestic violence charges that she
had filed against her husband.
At first glance, this decision seems to unjustly discourage victims of domestic violence from coming forward to charge their boyfriends, spouses, significant others of committing acts of domestic violence. A criminal law professor whom I greatly admired would have condemned this decision as one that unfairly closed the courthouse doors to victims of criminal conduct.
Reading farther, however, one learns that this isn't the first time that Mrs. Owen had made the county commit hundreds of dollars in resources -- ranging from law enforcement personnel to prosecutors, to judicial resources -- investigating allegations of domestic abuse by her husband. As the newspaper reports, Mr. Owen was also arrested in 2003 and 2006 when Mrs. Owen alleged domestic violence. Both of those cases were dismissed when she failed to appear in court.
Certainly it is true that some perpetrators of domestic violence are coerced into dropping the charges. It would be my preference that the decision of the Macomb County judge not cause other judges to adopt fines as punishment when alleged victims of DV refuse to prosecute. Rather, each case should be judged on its individual facts. Where the facts support a history of false allegations, then perhaps a fine is appropriate. It's something about the “boy who cried Wolf . . . " We need to be able to make resources available to legitimate victims of DV.
You can read the Macomb News report here.