Reasons Why Criminal Charges Would Be Dropped
If criminal charges have been filed against you or one of your loved ones, try not to panic. Many cases never make it to trial, and depending on the circumstances of your case, it may be possible that the charges will be dropped. Charges against defendants are dropped for many different reasons, some of which our criminal defense lawyers will cover in this article.
Can Crime Victims Drop Criminal Charges?
Thanks to inaccurate depictions in movies and TV shows, it’s become a common misconception that the victim of an alleged crime has the power to say, “I’m dropping the charges.”
In reality, this simply isn’t true. Crime victims cannot drop charges, because they are not the ones who file the charges to begin with. This is another widespread myth.
Upon receiving information from the police department to which the crime was reported, it is actually the prosecutor who files the charges – not the victim him- or herself. However, since it is often the victim who initially reports the crime to the police, this likely explains where the confusion comes from.
On a related note, it is worth pointing out that not all arrests or police reports result in prosecution. The prosecutor has prosecutorial discretion over which cases he or she will pursue, and may decide to leave a suspect alone if there does not seem to be sufficient evidence to build a strong case. Well before trial is ever reached, during an early stage of the criminal process called the preliminary hearing, the prosecutor must prove that he or she has enough evidence to take the case forward. If he or she does not, the case will not be able to proceed. Prosecutors do not want to waste their time on shaky cases which they know will not make it past the preliminary hearing stage.
We’ve established that prosecutors, not victims, are the ones who file (and drop) criminal charges. But why would a prosecutor decide to drop charges in the first place? There are numerous factors which can come into play.
The victim is one of these factors – just not to the extent that people tend to imagine. While the victim does not have the legal authority to actually drop the charges, charges can still be dropped because of a victim’s intervention. If a victim expresses a desire that the charges be dropped, as is often the case in situations involving allegations of domestic violence like assault, the prosecutor will take the victim’s wishes into account. However, the prosecutor still holds the final decision-making authority, and does not have to drop the charges simply because the victim requests it.
Reasons Why a Prosecutor Would Decide to Drop a Case
Other than lacking evidence or granting a victim’s request, what are some other common reasons a prosecutor might drop criminal charges against a defendant?
- Insufficient resources. There are only so many hours in a day, and only so much attention a single prosecutor can devote to a given case. Sometimes, prosecutors simply have to prioritize and be pragmatic. If a prosecutor wants (or needs) to focus on a serious felony like murder or sexual assault, a lesser charge like a nonviolent misdemeanor might be dropped. This is especially true in cases where the defendant is a first-time offender with an otherwise clean record.
- New evidence arises. This might include newly uncovered video footage, DNA evidence, computer evidence, etc. Of course, this cuts both ways: new evidence might also arise which helps the prosecution instead of the defense. Evidence which aids the defense is called exculpatory evidence, while evidence which aids the prosecution is called inculpatory evidence. (It comes from the Latin word culpa, meaning fault or guilt.)
- Inadmissible evidence. This is the opposite of the scenario above. Even if no exculpatory emerges to aid the defense, the judge might find the prosecutor’s evidence is inadmissible and therefore cannot be used in court, no matter how convincing it is.
- Evidence is lost. In yet another scenario, the prosecutor could lose some of his or her best (otherwise admissible) evidence. For example, a witness may decide not to come forward.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers Offering Free Consultations
If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor or felony in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, or if someone you love has been placed under arrest, you need a knowledgeable and experienced defense attorney on your side. To set up a free, completely private legal consultation, call the law offices of Young, Marr & Associates right away at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania. We will keep your information confidential.
NO JAIL TIME
Commonwealth v. "H" (DUI case)
Client was charged with three separate DUI cases calling for mandatory minimum imprisonment of 90 days on each case. Client was advised to seek immediate intensive alcohol counseling. Client was sentenced to 1 year of house arrest after serving 3 days in the county prison.
Commonwealth v. "C" (Felony drug/Firearms case)
Client was charged with felony Delivery of drugs and illegal gun possession and was facing a mandatory 3-6 year prison sentence in the State prison system. Client was sentenced to one year of house arrest.
Commonwealth v. "S"
Client was charged with simple assault, domestic. After a hearing where evidence and testimony was presented, the entire case was dismissed by Judge Leonard Brown.
State of New Jersey v. "H"
Charges for young man charged with second degree aggravated assault were downgraded to third degree and he was accepted into the County Pretrial Intervention program with charges to be dismissed and record expunged after one year of misconduct free behavior.
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