Dismissing Criminal Charges?

Last Modified: January 22, 2024

Having criminal charges dismissed can feel like a Weight being lifted off of your shoulders. Our Guide Can Help Start the Process.

Can a Criminal Case be Dismissed?

There is a common misconception that it is egregiously difficult or even impossible to get a criminal case dismissed. Though the vast majority of criminal cases are not dismissed, there is the potential for dismissal, especially if the defendant has a savvy and experienced criminal defense attorney in his or her corner.
The bottom line is there are some instances in which criminal prosecutors have no other choice but to accept that a case must be dismissed. There is also the potential for the judge to determine the defendant’s rights were violated and subsequently dismiss the case. Let’s take a look at the many reasons why criminal cases are dismissed.

How to get a Criminal Case Dismissed

The legal system of the United States has inherent safeguards that are designed to prevent faulty criminal convictions. Though such safeguards are not guaranteed to work in every single case, there is the potential for them to result in a dismissal of criminal charges that ultimately prevent a miscarriage of justice.

Every individual charged with a crime should be aware that two parties have the power to dismiss criminal charges. The judge presiding over the case is one of those parties. The judge is empowered to dismiss criminal charges after determining the evidence presented for consideration is insufficient. However, insufficient evidence in the context of supporting the charge is not guaranteed to lead to dismissal. The judge might permit the prosecutors to present the case before the jury and allow the jury to consider that supposed proof. Furthermore, if the judge determines the case presented by the prosecutor is legally defective, he or she has full authority to dismiss the criminal charges against the defendant.

The prosecutor is the other party capable of dismissing criminal charges against a defendant. This individual is also the one who initially charges the supposed criminal with the criminal offense. The prosecution is required to provide probable cause that indicates the defendant committed the crime. However, if the defendant’s criminal defense lawyer convinces opposing counsel that the case presented is flawed, there is a chance the prosecutor will file a motion for the case to be dismissed.

Dismissal Grounds

The legal grounds used for dismissal are central to its justification. As an example, the police who performed the arrest might have illegally searched the defendant or his or her property. The police are required to provide a search warrant or have the permission of the individual in question to perform a pre-arrest search. The failure to obtain a pre-arrest search or a search warrant is a violation of the defendant’s Constitutional rights.

Furthermore, if the police violated the defendant’s rights when performing the investigation, the court has the potential to exclude the evidence collected. This removal of such evidence can lead to the prosecutor dismissing the charges as there is insufficient proof of the defendant’s supposed guilt. A legally defective arrest is another reason for the dismissal of a criminal case. In short, police are required to have probable cause prior to arresting someone. In order to obtain the indictment or arrest warrant, the prosecution is required to satisfy a judge/grand jury, proving there is sufficient evidence to charge the individual in question with a crime. If the court determines police failed to gather sufficient evidence in support of the criminal charge, the prosecution might decide to dismiss that charge after the preliminary hearing.

Though it is disturbing to think about, the truth is police sometimes coerce confessions out of supposed criminals. Such coercion can be performed through verbal suggestions or even verbal/physical threats. A confession cannot be used in a court of law unless provided voluntarily. Coercion is likely to spur the judge to eliminate the confession from consideration, ultimately leading to a dismissal of the case.

Exculpatory Evidence can Lead to a Dismissal

If prosecutors do not believe the defendant committed the crime in question, the charges cannot be pursued. The burden of proof is on the prosecutor to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant’s criminal defense attorney can create such doubt with an alibi. The presentation of an alibi witness or another form of evidence that proves the defendant did not commit the crime in question sets the stage for the charges to be dismissed.

However, merely presenting the evidence does not guarantee the prosecutor will dismiss the charge. As an example, a spouse serving as an alibi witness who states the defendant was in his or her presence when the crime was committed might not qualify as a credible witness as that individual has an inherent interest in helping the defendant.

A Plea Agreement or Cooperation in Another Case can Lead to Dismissal

The defendant’s attorney can also negotiate a plea agreement. A guilty plea to a lesser charge, such as a misdemeanor charge, leads to the dropping of a comparably serious felony charge. Though this approach does not immediately clear the defendant’s criminal history, it brings the case to an end.
There is also the potential for the case to be dismissed if the defendant agrees to cooperate with the police and prosecution on another larger case of greater importance. As an example, an individual accused of possessing drugs has the potential to walk free without penalty for helping police identify and arrest the drug lords in charge of the overarching drug distribution ring.

Lost Evidence

The presentation of evidence is central to criminal cases. However, police have lost the evidence necessary to prove a criminal’s supposed guilt in prior cases. If important evidence is lost and the remaining evidence is insufficient to prove the defendant’s supposed guilt, the prosecution might not have any other choice but to dismiss the criminal charges.

An Unavailable Witness

Eyewitness testimony has the potential to make or break certain criminal cases. If the witness in question is no longer alive, is too sick to testify, cannot be located, or is unavailable for another reason, there is the potential for the prosecutor to drop the criminal charge, ultimately leading to the case being dismissed.

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