When it comes to court decisions, should you aim for charges to be dismissed or dropped? Let’s cover the pros and cons for each of these options.
Types of Criminal Defense
A criminal defense is a planned and comprehensive strategy for challenging the validity and sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence. The prosecution—often referred to as the People, the State, or in the case of federal crimes the United States—is the party trying to prove the criminal charges against the defendant. The prosecution must prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a hefty burden. This means that the prosecution must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
There are many defenses available in criminal charges, and a skilled criminal defense lawyer will be able to know which defense is best for your specific case. A defendant may argue, for example, that there are holes in the prosecution’s case or that evidence was gathered in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights.
There are 14 specific types of criminal defenses we have identified on previous occasions: innocence, constitutional violations, alibi, insanity, self-defense, defense-of-others, defense of property, involuntary intoxication, voluntary intoxication, mistake of law/mistake of fact, duress or coercion, abandonment or withdrawal, necessity, the expiration of the statute of limitations for the crime having run. Read more about the different types of legal defenses in criminal law.
Reasons Why Charges May Be Dropped
The prosecution can drop a charge before or after it has been filed with the court. Charges dropped may be dropped due to the following factors:
- Insufficient Evidence: The prosecutor may drop a criminal charge if there is not strong enough evidence to pursue the charge. (in the prosecutor’s opinion or after some convincing by a competent defense attorney)
- Fourth Amendment Violations: The prosecutor may drop a criminal charge if evidence was illegally obtained, such as without a search warrant. If the prosecutor knows that the evidence was obtained in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights, they also know that such evidence will be inadmissible in court.
- Procedural Issues: Another technicality may lead to the dropping of charges. Police must follow strict criminal procedures when arresting, booking, and having a criminal defendant in custody awaiting arraignment or trial. This implicates such areas as coerced confessions and rights to an attorney, protected under the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Errors in these procedures may also lead to charges dropped by the prosecutor.
- Resource Issues: The prosecutor, a government worker, may simply have too many cases to deal with and too few resources. They may have to prioritize the worst offenders, leading to charges being dropped.
- Willingness to Cooperate: If a criminal defendant is willing to work with the prosecutors and law enforcement, the prosecutor may drop the charges in exchange. Examples of this would be serving as an informant or testifying against another defendant.
In all of these cases, charges dropped by the prosecutor are a result of prosecutorial discretion. This roots in the fundamental idea that limited law enforcement resources must be allocated as officials feel will do the most good for the greatest number of people as well as for the criminal justice system.
Reasons Why Charges May Be Dismissed
Many of the reasons why charges are dropped are the same as those for charges dismissed. One significant distinction is that charges dismissed are generally dismissed at a later stage in the prosecution. It may be ordered by a judge in addition to a prosecutor. Why? The answer is that the prosecutor or judge may realize that evidence is poor, witnesses are unavailable, or illegal tactics were used to gather evidence or make arrests. On balance, in addition to these factors making for a bad case, the prosecutor or judge may want to discourage police misconduct by not allowing poorly built cases to have their day in court.
Pros and Cons of Charges Dropped vs. Dismissed
The pros and cons of charges dropped vs. dismissed weigh heavily in favor of dismissal. This is because charges dropped by the prosecution may be reinstated at a later time, for example, when more evidence comes to light. This creates uncertainty for a criminal defendant in that they do not know from one day to the next whether the crimes they are alleged to have committed will ever come up again. On the other hand, dismissed charges tend to stay dismissed for good, providing certainty to the criminal defendant to move forward with their life.
Partnering with the Right Attorney for Your Case
When you are accused of a crime, you will need the best criminal defense attorneys who have the right knowledge and skills to help your case. At the Law Offices of Seth Kretzer, our federal criminal appellate attorneys will fight for you. Contact us online today to learn more!