If you’re accused in a case involving “cross-complaints”, there’s a good chance your case could get dismissed.
Cross-Complaints typically arise in assault cases, often domestic-violence assault cases. Police arrive at the scene of a fight. You and the other fighter are both injured. You each point a finger at the other and tell police that the other one started it: “I was just defending myself.”
The police didn’t see who threw the first punch, kick, shove, threat, etc. They don’t know who’s telling the truth and who’s lying. So they arrest both of you.
Two cases get filed in Criminal Court. You’re a defendant in one and a “complainant” (also known as a “complaining witness”) in the other. In the case where you’re the defendant, the other fighter is the complainant; and in the case where you’re the complainant, the other fighter is the defendant. These are known as “cross-complaint” cases.
Forget about your complainant status. Let it go. Wave goodbye. Your entire focus should be on shedding your defendant status — on avoiding a criminal conviction and possibly jail.
If the District Attorney can’t prove the case against you without the other fighter’s cooperation (because the D.A. has no other witness to the fight), and if the D.A. can’t prove the case against the other fighter without your cooperation, then both cases likely will be dismissed if neither fighter cooperates with the D.A. You should use this potential stalemate to your advantage.
Ordinarily, the D.A. can force reluctant witnesses to testify by subpoenaing them. However, because you’re a defendant, you risk incriminating yourself if you testify. So the D.A. can only force you to testify by giving you immunity.
If the D.A. were to give you immunity, then the case against you would be dismissed. So the D.A. will almost certainly not give you immunity.
The same is true in the other direction. If the D.A. were to give the other fighter immunity, then the case against the other fighter would be dismissed. So the D.A. will almost certainly not give the other fighter immunity.
In this situation, both cases eventually will be dismissed, because the D.A. can’t prove either one.
The only thing to prevent this from happening is desire for retribution – yours or the other fighters. If one of you agrees to cooperate with the D.A.’s prosecution against the other, because you want the other fighter to be punished, then you’ll face a bumpier road to resolving your case.
Through your attorneys (you won’t be able to communicate with each other because you’ll have orders of protection preventing you from doing so) agree to exercise your constitutional “right against self-incrimination” in the D.A.’s prosecution against the other. Agree that you’ll each “plead the Fifth” and remain silent.
Both cases likely will be dismissed, and you’ll each be free not to fight another day.
Bruce Yerman is a New York City criminal defense attorney. If you would like to discuss domestic violence charges, contact Bruce for a free consultation: