Do I have to go to court on a criminal charge if the other party does not want to press charges?

Do I have to go to court on a criminal charge if the other party does not want to press charges?

The bottom line:  Yes.  The District Attorney’s office decides whether to prosecute someone for a crime; it is not up to a private individual to “press charges.”  If you do not show up for court, the judge will issue a bench warrant for your arrest. This means you will have an additional criminal charge of “failure to appear.”

The concept of “pressing charges” is popular on TV police shows, but in real life, it is not up to an individual to decide whether to pursue a criminal charge after an arrest has been made.  The D.A.’s office decides that.

Let’s look at a domestic violence allegation as an example.   Sometimes a person who calls the police and alleges domestic violence later has a change of heart and tells the police that she does not want to press charges.  In Tennessee, the police will almost always make an arrest if there is probable cause that a domestic assault law has been broken.  (In a future post, I will explain what “probable cause” means and the arrest process.)  

An Assistant District Attorney (ADA) will review the police report and the arrest warrant and speak with the alleged victim to determine whether to proceed with prosecution.  Based on the available information, if the ADA believes a crime has been committed and that there is enough evidence, the ADA will proceed with prosecution.


Do I need a will if I am single and have no children?

Do I need a will if I am single and have no children?

The bottom line:  Yes.  Without a will, Tennessee law decides who gets your dog, your car, and everything else you leave behind.

If you die without a will, the state of Tennessee, using the law of intestacy, will determine who inherits your property.  If you have no spouse or children, your property will be divided equally between your parents.  If your parents die before you, then your property passes to your brothers and sisters. 

The law of intestacy will not benefit your fiancée, friend, long-time partner, church, or anyone that is not legally related to you.  If you want your property to pass to someone other than what the law provides, then you need a will.

A will is just one part of a good estate plan; your estate planning should include documents that determine who will take care of your financial affairs (such as bill paying) if you are incapacitated and who will make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself.

There are also ways other than a will that your property can pass after your death.  For example, insurance policies and retirement accounts have beneficiaries that you name on the policy or account.   A trust is a good option in some circumstances.  When you review your assets with your estate planning attorney, she can advise you as to the best way to benefit the people or organizations you care about.

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