The Process to have Charges Dropped in the Criminal Justice System
A common question that we get at ATX Legal is whether we can get criminal charges dismissed pre-trial and under what circumstances. This article aims to shed light on this topic, helping you understand the intricacies of criminal charges, the role of a criminal defense attorney, and the factors leading to charges being dropped or dismissed. Every case is different, but I have had success with having charges dismissed at both the felony and misdemeanor level. If you’re facing criminal charges in Travis, Hays or Williamson County, you can reach out for a free consultation.
First things first: What Leads to Criminal Charges?
Criminal charges stem from violations of the law, ranging from minor offenses to serious crimes. A law enforcement officer, based on evidence and probable cause, may arrest a suspect, but it’s only a prosecutor who can formally charge a a criminal defendant. The prosecutor may decide to reject the criminal charge at this stage. A criminal defense lawyer can have contact with the prosecutor and present evidence as to why the criminal charges should not be pursued.
Can Charges Be Dropped After Indictment?
Felonies must go before a grand jury for an indictment, while misdemeanors can go forward with an “information” filed by the prosecution. Yes, charges can be dropped after an indictment, but this process is not as straightforward as it may seem. Dropping charges typically involves the prosecutor deciding not to continue with the case, either because of insufficient evidence, new evidence that exonerates the defendant, or procedural errors, such as fourth amendment violations related to illegal searches and seizures.
The Role of Insufficient Evidence
Insufficient evidence is a primary reason for dropped charges. The prosecution must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If this threshold is not met due to lack of enough evidence or lost evidence, the case may weaken, leading to charges being dropped.
Although a police officer must have probable cause for an arrest, not all criminal charges are supported beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor’s role is to see that justice is served, not to pursue a conviction at all costs. If he or she believes that a dismissal is justice, then that should be the result. Of course, a good criminal defense lawyer will have some sway in convincing the prosecution that the criminal case should be dropped or dismissed. The factors involved in the decision to drop criminal charges and have cases dismissed include additional evidence gathered by the defense, or by casting doubt on the court case.
The Impact of Fourth Amendment Violations
Fourth amendment violations, including an illegal stop or a search without a proper search warrant, can lead to evidence being deemed inadmissible in court. This can significantly affect the prosecution’s case, as the court may dismiss charges based on constitutional rights violations.
A criminal defense attorney can gather evidence and challenge the arrest pre-trial with a motion to suppress evidence. At a hearing, the prosecutor must show that the arresting officer acted within the bounds of the law and must follow strict criminal procedures, or else anything gathered by the officer will be deemed inadmissible evidence. If the lost evidence damages the prosecution’s case enough, he or she will have no choice but to dismiss.
The Concept of Reasonable Doubt
Reasonable doubt is the standard by which all criminal cases are judged. If the defense can introduce doubt about the defendant’s guilt, it can prevent a conviction. This doubt can stem from various factors, including new evidence, police misconduct, or flaws in the prosecution’s case. If the prosecutor does not have enough evidence that the defendant committed a crime, he or she should have charges dropped.
When Prosecutors Decide to Drop Charges
Prosecutors may decide to drop charges for several reasons, including insufficient evidence, procedural issues, or in light of new evidence that undermines their case. It’s crucial to understand that only a prosecutor has the authority to drop charges formally, highlighting prosecutorial discretion, which is vast. Importantly, if more evidence comes to light, the prosecutor can open the case again by re-filing the charges any time before the statute of limitations runs.
Why Dismissed Charges are so Important
When a defendant agrees to plead guilty in front of the judge, the arrest and conviction remain on their criminal history for life. On the other hand, when charges are dropped, you can have the case expunged – basically meaning the crime is deleted from the record.
For charges to be dismissed, the defense must effectively challenge the prosecution’s case, highlighting any lack of evidence, procedural mistakes, or violations of constitutional rights. This process underscores the adversarial nature of the criminal justice system, where evidence and legal arguments determine the outcome.
The Importance of a Criminal Defense Attorney
A criminal attorney plays a pivotal role in getting the criminal charges dropped or dismissed. They scrutinize the prosecutor’s case for any weaknesses, challenging probable cause, procedural errors, and constitutional violations.
By challenging the evidence and arguing for the defendant’s rights, a defense attorney can sway the outcome significantly. If successful in getting the case dismissed, the defendant can later be expunge such charges.
Facing criminal charges can be daunting. Having charges dropped or dismissed early in the process can be an enormous relief for a criminal defendant facing a criminal charge. Whether through insufficient evidence, procedural errors, or effective legal defense, the path to having charges dropped is complex.
While not possible in all cases, a good attorney will give you the best chance at having charges dismissed pre-trial. At the end of the day, it is the job of the prosecution to prove guilt, and if they don’t have reasonable belief that they can do so, then charges are dropped.
ATX Legal has gotten countless criminal charges dropped for the reasons listed above. We offer a free consultation by phone. If you or a family member are charged with a crime, Text 512-677-5003 or fill out a contact form to schedule your consultation with a criminal attorney as soon as today.