How do I make this go away? This is a common reaction many people have when they are charged with a crime. It is possible to get your case dismissed and you may be able to have the charges dropped before the case goes to court. This requires the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Criminal cases are dismissed when the prosecuting attorney or deputy district attorney chooses to dismiss the case. The victim in a case may influence the prosecutor’s decision to dismiss the matter but it is ultimately the deputy district attorney’s decision to do so. A prosecutor may still pursue a case after a victim declines to press charges. A prosecutor might not dismiss a case in a domestic violence case even when the victim wants them too. Alternately, a victim in a civil lawsuit retains the right to have the case voluntarily dismissed at any point. Criminal cases may also be dismissed when the judge chooses to dismiss the case against the wishes of the prosecution upon a defendant’s motion for lack of sufficient evidence.
A case may be dismissed with or without prejudice. When a case is dismissed with prejudice, it is closed for good. This means that neither party may reopen the case at a later time and the case is considered permanently resolved. When a case is dismissed without prejudice the prosecutor is given the opportunity to correct errors in the original case and refile the charges. In felony cases, prosecutors are allowed to dismiss the case and refile one time per case. Once a felony case has been dismissed twice, it is considered dismissed with prejudice.
There are several factors that may result in a deputy district attorney or judge agreeing to dismiss your case including:
Insufficient evidence – in some cases, there is not enough evidence to build a solid case and the prosecutor can be influenced not to file charges. Likewise, sometimes the evidence that does exist can be shown to be weak and full of reasonable doubt. Your attorney may also be able to present compelling evidence that contradicts the police report. Sometimes witness unavailability, recantation, or reluctance to testify can persuade a prosecutor to dismiss based on insufficient evidence.
Fourth Amendment violations – The Fourth Amendment protects US citizens against unlawful searches and seizures. Evidence obtained in violation of lawful searches is inadmissible in court. While the Fourth Amendment may not serve as the grounds to dismiss your case, it may influence the prosecutor to drop the charges if key evidence is deemed inadmissible.
Chain of custody – Law enforcement and prosecutors must follow specific protocol during arrest, booking, interrogation, bail hearing and prior to trial. If your rights are violated due to any of these violations it may serve as grounds for dismissal of your case.
Inadmissible testimony – If an arresting officer fails to read you your Miranda Rights before obtaining a confession, the evidence is inadmissible and may not be used as testimony in court.
Mistrial – When a jury fails to deliver an unanimous verdict, the defense may file a motion to declare a mistrial. If this happens, a judge will declare a mistrial. After this occurs the court may schedule another trial on the same charges, the prosecutor and defense may agree on a plea bargain, or the prosecutor may dismiss the charges.
Speedy Trial / Statute of Limitations / Double Jeopardy – Timing can sometimes play a large part in whether a case is dismissed. If a case is too old, or if too much time elapsed between when an incident happened and when charges were filed, then the defense attorney may make a motion to dismiss based on those issues. Additionally, if the prosecutor has already filed charges that were resolved, they may not file new charges later based on the same incident. If they do, the defense attorney may make a motion to dismiss based on your rights against double jeopardy.
Plea Bargaining – As part of a plea bargain, the prosecutor may agree to dismiss certain more serious charges in exchange for a guilty plea to other less serious charges. Although this does not have the result of dismissing an entire case, it can drastically and positively change the outcome for a defendant.
An attorney cannot guarantee that they can get your case dismissed but an experienced criminal defense attorney is able to identify the issues present in your criminal case and help you receive the best possible outcome. We have helped many clients get their criminal charges dismissed and put behind them so that they can move on with their lives without sitting behind bars, paying large fines or having criminal charges follow them for the rest of their life.