Not every person charged with a crime ends up going to trial or taking a plea deal. Many criminal cases end up being dismissed by the court or the prosecutor. One of the first things your attorney will do when they take on your case is to determine if there are grounds under which the prosecution should dismiss it.
There are multiple ways a defendant or their attorney can convince a prosecutor to drop criminal charges. Examples include lack of probable cause, presenting exculpatory evidence, showing police violated their rights, or partaking in a pretrial diversion program.
On What Grounds Can a Case Be Dismissed?
On top of having an ethical duty of candor to the public and the court, prosecutors want to win their criminal cases. Thus, if the prosecution team finds signs of weakness in their criminal case, they must bolster their position with more evidence or drop the charges.
If the prosecutor thinks they can find more evidence to convict you, they may dismiss your case without prejudice. Having it dismissed without prejudice means that prosecutors can refile charges down the road if they want to.
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The Police Had No Probable Cause to Arrest
To make an arrest, law enforcement is required to have probable cause to be convinced a person carried out a criminal act. So, for example, the police are not allowed to arrest you simply because they believe you must have robbed a nearby department store.
Objective factual circumstances must support a reasonable belief that you robbed the store. For example, an eyewitness shopper inside the department store identified the robber as having a neck tattoo and wearing a pink jacket, a white scarf, and black boots. If the officer spots a person matching this description in the parking lot, they will likely have probable cause to make an arrest.
However, if you were arrested near the store and there were no eyewitnesses or other reasons to conclude you did the crime, your lawyer may convince your prosecutor to drop the charges.
You Present Exculpatory Evidence
Exculpatory evidence is the main reason your prosecutor may choose to drop charges against you. They can’t continue pursuing charges if they no longer think you committed the crime you were charged for.
To win a conviction against you, your prosecutor must be able to prove that you were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Exculpatory evidence is any indication that you were not guilty of the crime you were charged with and can prevent the prosecutor from proving their case.
Exculpatory evidence examples include:
- A confession was made by somebody other than you
- Crime scene footage shows somebody other than you in the act of committing the crime
- An alibi witness or physical proof shows you were not at the crime scene when it occurred
If your attorney presents solid exculpatory evidence on your behalf, the prosecutor should drop the case against you. Yet, some prosecutors will only be convinced to drop the charges if they’ve been presented with overwhelming exculpatory evidence. This is more common when the police have no other suspects to charge.
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If the Police Violated Your Rights
Any evidence that is discovered after law enforcement violates your constitutional rights is subject to the exclusionary rule. If this happens, you or your attorney can prevent the evidence against you from being admitted at your trial.
With insufficient evidence, it might be enough to convince the prosecution to drop criminal charges. However, your constitutional rights protect you from:
- Unreasonable searches or seizures.
- Forced self-incrimination
- Having to appear before a judge without legal representation
They also provide you with the right to:
- Cross-examine witnesses testifying against you
- View the evidence against you
- Be represented by legal counsel during a police interrogation
If any of your constitutional rights are violated, your judge may sanction the prosecution by excluding a witness or evidence in your trial. Without this evidence, the prosecutor may dismiss your charges. However, keep in mind that a constitutional violation is extremely difficult to show without a skilled criminal defense team on your side.
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Joining a Pretrial Diversion Program
Becoming part of a pretrial diversion is a frequently used method for convincing a prosecutor to drop criminal charges once the program is completed. Despite this, only specific types of defendants and criminal offenses are allowed to partake in these programs. It is an alternative to the justice system that will enable you to find treatment while remaining out of trouble for a specific time. It typically involves steps including:
- Being arrested and charged with a crime
- Being found eligible for a diversion program and choosing to participate in it
- Pleading guilty to the crime
- The defendant and prosecutor agreeing to pause prosecution
- The judge suspending the sentence
- The defendant participating in the diversion program
- Fulfilling the conditions of your pretrial diversion program and completing the program
- The prosecutor dropping the criminal charge
- The court dismissing the case
Though the regulation of each diversion program is customized to a particular criminal offense, they all have rules and terms that must be obeyed, including:
- Victim restitution payments
- Going to drug or alcohol treatment or counseling
- Probation officer check-ins
- Not being arrested for other crimes
- Going to victim impact panels
Your charges will only be dropped if you complete the program. If you fail to do this, your case would re-enter the criminal justice system and go straight to sentencing. Diversion programs are usually only available for first-time offenders and misdemeanor or low-level crimes (i.e., DUIs, shoplifting, and drug possession).
Your Attorney Will Work to Have Your Charges Dropped
An arrest can be distressing; however, a criminal conviction can cause problems for you for the rest of your life. That’s why you need the Simmrin Law Group on your side.
Your prosecutor may voluntarily dismiss your charges, but this is rare. Instead, they typically require negotiation and persuasion before going in front of a judge to file a dismissal on your behalf. Talk to us about your case for FREE, with no obligation. Contact us by calling or completing the online form right now.