If An Accuser Retracts His Or Her Statement In A Sex Case, Does That Mean The Charges Will Be Dropped Automatically?
Just because an accuser retracts their statement does not mean that the charges will automatically be dropped. Regardless of whether the accusation is made by an adult or a child, recanting is viewed very suspiciously. Police, prosecutors, and judges are very skeptical of what is sometimes referred to as a retracted or recanted statement (i.e., going back on an accusation), because there are so many potential reasons someone could choose to do that, and not all of them involve the idea that the accused is actually innocent. In this #MeToo world, victims of sexual assault may retract an accusation because they have been paid to do so, threatened, embarrassed, or because they have guilt about it.
A retraction is not a guarantee that the charges will be dropped. The accuser—in any criminal case, but particularly a sexual assault case—is simply a witness; they are not a party to a criminal case. In a criminal case, the party that is attempting to prosecute the defendant is the state, not the victim of the crime. This means that the prosecutor doesn’t need the victim’s cooperation in order to prosecute a charge, particularly if the case is provable without the victim’s testimony, which is not unheard of. In child sex cases where the victim is very young, there is frequently no testimony from the victim anyway. If the prosecutors can prove a case without the cooperation of the victim, the case can and will frequently go forward.