The case of former Houston Rockets player Kevin Porter Jr. now brings to mind a common question: Can you drop a charge of assault?
The answer is no. If you were the victim or alleged victim of an assault and later wanted a charge dropped against your alleged assailant, you have no legal right to drop or dismiss such a charge.
Only the district attorney or prosecutors in the case—not you and not the police—can drop a charge once it’s been made.
Why are charges not dropped despite a request?
Among the reasons for limiting who can drop a charge is to protect victims.
Some victims may have a change of heart about having accused a romantic partner who then is jailed. After the heat of the moment when accusations flew, they may ask that a charge be dropped even though it had a real basis.
Or a victim may be coerced or forced into recanting or denying an initial claim or accusation, even though an assault actually occurred.
To avoid letting such matters thwart justice, prosecutors still have a right to prosecute if the evidence in a case warrants it. That protects victims who later may claim, for whatever reason, that an assault did not happen, even though it did.
Ex-girlfriend denies assault
In the case of Porter Jr., his former girlfriend has denied that he hit her during an altercation—reported via a 911 call—at a New York City hotel on September 11, 2023. After police arrived and investigated, Porter Jr. was arrested and later charged by prosecutors with several felony crimes, including strangulation and assault.
At the time, New York police said Kysre Gondrezick, 26, had complained of neck pain and suffered a cut on the right side of her face. She was transported to a hospital for a medical evaluation and was listed in stable condition with a cut above her right eye and what at first was believed to be a fractured neck vertebra.
In their initial investigation, police said that a “known individual” had struck a woman “multiple times” and also placed his hands around her neck.
However, on Monday, October 16, prosecutors in Manhattan dropped one of the assault charges against Porter Jr. while acknowledging that the neck vertebra of former WNBA player Gondrezick was not fractured in the incident.
The next day, on Tuesday, October 17, Gondrezick told the New York Post that Porter Jr. “definitely didn’t punch me in the face numerous times. That is a lie.”
“My injuries don’t support any of those claims,” Gondrezick told the Post. She blamed police and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for inaccuracies about the incident. She said prosecutors did not interview her before releasing details of her injuries.
“He didn’t hit me,” she said. “He never balled his fists up and hit me.”
“It happened very fast, not to the degree of what was reported,” Gondrezick told the Post. “And it was an argument that occurred in the room for not even 10 seconds.”
The Post interview gave no indication that she requested that the charges be dropped.
Despite her latest statement, and even with one charge dropped, Porter Jr. still faces 2 charges: third-degree assault and second-degree strangulation, both of which are felony crimes. He has pleaded not guilty.
Porter Jr. played for the Houston Rockets for the past 2 seasons, but on Tuesday, October 17, he was traded by the Rockets to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He and Gondrezick are no longer dating, in part because the charges against Porter Jr. included a protective order for him not to contact her. (That order was lifted on Monday, October 16.)
Why are some charges dismissed or dropped?
Again, a citizen and even the police cannot drop a charge, nor can they initially file such a charge. The legal process of filing a charge or dropping a charge can be handled only by prosecutors in a case.
Yet sometimes prosecutors do, in fact, drop a case by dismissing a charge that they’d already made.
That can happen due to insufficient evidence, as when a case relies largely on the testimony of a victim who is no longer willing to cooperate. Thus, while the victim may not have been able to drop a charge, he or she could make it difficult for a district attorney to prosecute.
Other times, perhaps new evidence is uncovered that leads prosecutors to believe they cannot win a case.
A charge may also be dropped by prosecutors if they learn that there were procedural errors made by police in the case or if there were violations of the accused person’s Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful searches and seizures of evidence.
An overworked prosecutor’s office may also prioritize other cases while dropping a minor charge against a person who has no prior criminal record.
Even so, though prosecutors may drop a charge in some circumstances, if they lack a good reason to drop a criminal complaint, they most likely will move instead to investigate a charge and then take the case to trial.
Will an arrest remain on record despite a charge being dropped?
As for whether an arrest will remain on the record of an accused person if a charge is dropped, the arrest will still be on their criminal record, though perhaps with an indication that the charge was later dismissed. The exonerated person can then petition to have the record destroyed based on an unfair charge.
When a charge remains, defendants have the legal option of engaging an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can work with prosecutors to get the charge dismissed or perhaps reduced to a lesser offense. This can occur during pretrial negotiations.
If some form of a charge remains at that stage, a skilled defense attorney can work to arrange a plea bargain, by which a defendant accepts guilt in exchange for facing a lesser charge or a reduced punishment. A plea bargain also avoids the risks of a trial, where eventual punishments from a conviction could be worse.
But even with input and negotiations by a defense lawyer, only the prosecutors who filed a charge can drop or dismiss that charge—with one exception: A court may decide to drop a charge if it finds that prosecutors made a fundamental legal error in the case.
Get the best Houston area criminal defense lawyer
If you or a loved one faces a criminal charge in the Houston area, you need the best criminal defense lawyer or attorney you can find to fight for your legal rights.
The award-winning Neal Davis Law Firm has decades of experience standing up for the rights of Americans who face a criminal charge, complaint, accusation or allegation. Contact us today to arrange a confidential consultation for your criminal case.