Why Are Criminal Charges Dropped or Dismissed?
If people were to look up your jail records, you’d love it if no one was able to find anything. That could be for a couple of reasons – your charges may have been dropped or dismissed.
When people hear either of those terms, they tend to think of them as being interchangeable. That is not the case. It’s important to know about them both since being arrested for anything can be very nerve-wracking. You can see your whole future potentially going up in smoke, depending on what they are charging you with.
You could be facing serious jail time or a hefty fine or both. So it would be to your benefit to have those charges dropped or dismissed.
What Happens When A Charge is Dropped?
When you are arrested, the police officer will send all the information about the situation to a prosecutor. That prosecutor will look over everything and make a decision whether to go ahead with the charges or not. This is dependent on whether or not they think that they have a suitable case against you – enough to get a conviction in a courtroom trial.
If it turns out that the prosecutor determines that they don’t have enough evidence to actively pursue a case against you, then they will drop the case by not filing the charges initially or after something has come to light that you were most likely not the one to have committed the alleged crime.
Here are some reasons why the charges might be dropped:
- Not enough evidence
- Contradictory evidence
- Illegally obtained evidence, like without a search warrant, which is a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights
- Errors in procedure during arrest, interrogation, or booking, like coercing you or a witness or not giving you access to an attorney
- Non-cooperative witnesses who may not be talking to the police or any other law enforcement
- The prosecutor might have a lot of cases on their plate and they may not be able to focus on yours and might not deem it worth their time or efforts.
What Happens When a Case is Dismissed?
This is what happens when you have been charged and the prosecutor is intent on moving ahead, but then something could be discovered. There may have been an error in the way that certain evidence was handled – perhaps the usual chain of custody was not followed, which could then cast a doubt about whether something suspicious happened in between one person handing it off to another.
There are two entities that can dismiss your case. The prosecutor or the court, which is the judge. The judge may look at everything that the prosecutor has and determine that a trial would waste everyone’s time and dismiss the charges.
Which Would Be Better?
In the vast majority of cases, you would prefer to get a dismissal. There is a chance that they could re-file in those dropped cases … which could mean that you have to go through the whole bail situation again, which can be expensive. You don’t want to be uncertain if they are going to be knocking on your door again to bring you back into jail.
On the other hand, you can be pretty certain that a dismissed charge won’t come back to bite you. Prosecutors or judges tend to let them stay in the past. You will have a very good chance of being able to move forward with your life.
Post-Dropping or Dismissal
Just because the charges were dropped or dismissed does not mean that you are entirely in the clear. There is a statute of limitations and you could actually be re-arrested if the prosecutor finds other evidence that possibly points at your guilt. It is only if the trial had already started that you could face the possibility of being in legal double jeopardy and cannot be arrested again or tried again for the same crime. .
Having a great criminal defense lawyer can really help you here. Contact one as soon as you hear about the potential charges. They will have a sharp eye to look out for reasons to drop or dismiss the charges against you. It can be the difference from not having to worry about anything to potentially facing a big trial.
Hopefully, you will never find yourself sitting in a police station while wondering if you will have to sit in a courtroom in the future. This knowledge of dropping vs dismissal can possibly help you be less stressed.