LAPD Can Decide if Charges Are Filed
Video Transcribed: Will Smith be charged? It is not up to Chris Rock. I’m Oklahoma Attorney James Wirth, and you did not have to watch the academy awards to see the slap heard around the world. There’s been media coverage all over the place, you’ve probably seen it, you saw those clips at the beginning of this video.
The question becomes will, Will Smith be charged with a crime? And you can see from the news clip there’s been a lot put off by the LA Police Department saying that Chris Rock has decided not to press charges or to file charges, but I’m here to tell you that’s not really the way things work.
And of course, I’m speaking from my experience here in Oklahoma, California maybe a little bit different, but for the most part, there’s likely to be a lot of similarities across the United States. That is the victims do not press charges, they do not file the indictments.
That is up to law enforcement to investigate. They investigate, send the report to prosecutors, can do a probable cause affidavit. And then it’s up to the prosecutors that decide whether to file those and then ultimately up to the judge to decide whether to issue arrest warrants. Nowhere in that process are there boxes checked to see if the alleged victim of a crime or complaining witness of a crime is pressing charges.
So, what we’re seeing here is pushback from the police department where they probably expect or already do have a lot of pressure to either charge Will Smith for his assault on Chris Rock or to not charge him. And one way that they can try to evade all of that scrutiny is just bypassing the buck and saying, well, you know what?
Chris Rock did not press charges, he did not file a police report, therefore we’re not going to file anything. And therefore they can say, you know what? It’s not our call, it’s someone else’s call, go talk to Chris Rock about it. But in actuality, that’s not how it works.
In cases like this, where we have ample amount of evidence, even if the person who is the complaining witness or the victim of the crime does not want it to push forward, in the State of Oklahoma we usually see it gets pressed anyway.
Particularly in the case of domestic violence, very common where you have someone who has been battered or abused in a relationship, law enforcement is investigating, and they may say I don’t want charges filed.
It’s not their call. It’s the police that investigated determine whether a crime is committed, do a probable cause affidavit to the prosecutors who then evaluated on the same standard, whether a crime has been committed by probable cause, and then to a judge to issue the arrest warrant. And then ultimately to go forward to a trial, either bench trial or jury trial if a plea deal has not worked out to determine guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
So in a matter like this, where you have somebody who has been battered and assaulted in Oklahoma, as likely elsewhere, even if they don’t want to press charges, we still have law enforcement that can push that forward, prosecutors who can file that case.
And then once they go down to the point of it’s a felony preliminary hearing or ultimately trial, it’s then up to the state of the prosecutors to prove their case. And that is when most of the time they need that complaining witness or that victim because they have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt or a preliminary hearing by probable cause and without evidence, they can’t do that.
But here’s the thing with this circumstance, even if the person who was assaulted and battered, Chris Rock, does not want to cooperate, well they have subpoenas for that to force them to come and testify. But even if we don’t do all of that, they still have plenty of others.
It’s like, did anybody else witness this crime? Oh yeah. We had a whole theater of people full. Oh, and we also have a videotape of it. And half the people across the country, or whatever, watched it. So there is more than sufficient evidence to prove a crime was committed without any help what’s so all from Chris Rock.
So the is nothing in the law that says that you need a victim to sign off on it. And in this case, there’s no reason that they even need the victim or complaining witness to prove their case. So, by saying that he’s not pressing charges therefore we’re not doing anything, that’s just passing the buck, trying to get scrutiny off of them.
Most of the time, maybe I wouldn’t care so much about but it does preserve this false impression that many people have, which is that the victim gets to decide whether charges are pressed or filed, and that’s just not the case.
I mean, obviously, the victim can decide whether to report a crime and if it’s not reported then it won’t be investigated. But once law enforcement is involved, they have discretion and decide what they’re going to recommend charges on and then send over to the prosecutor.
And then once the prosecutor gets it, they have the discretion to determine what is ultimately going to be filed. And here we have a high-profile case where there’s ample evidence that a crime was committed. By electing not to file it does seem like there could be setting up a double standard, at least the appearance of a double standard here, which I find problematic as well.
So the question remains is Will Smith going to be charged? From what we’re seeing now it looks like the LA Police Department is electing not to recommend charges on it. It could still be up to the prosecutor to say, even though they’re not recommending, we’re going to move forward anyway since this is a crime that everybody is already aware of. They’re not relying on the police department to bring in that report, they already know that it happened.
But if you’ve got questions about an assault charge in Tulsa Oklahoma, you’re going to want to talk to an attorney about that privately and confidentially, to get that scheduled with somebody at my office go online tomakelaweasy.com.