Ways to Get Criminal Charges Dismissed
Contrary to what you might have seen on TV or in a movie, someone who has been arrested is not immediately put on trial. Weeks or months may pass between someone’s arrest and their trial. This interim period gives a defendant time to possibly have the charges against them dismissed by a prosecutor, also known as nolle prossing the charges.
What Does It Mean When a Case Is Dismissed?
Having a criminal case dismissed is different from a not guilty verdict at trial (also known as an acquittal). When a criminal case is dismissed, prosecutors have decided they do not want to take the matter any further.
That does not necessarily mean the defendant was not guilty. However, it does mean the state will not pursue the case for the moment. However, authorities can reopen a case that has been dismissed if they find additional evidence against a defendant, for example.
Why Do Prosecutors Drop Charges in Virginia?
The main reason prosecutors drop charges against someone accused of a crime is they do not believe they can win the case. Most prosecutors care a lot about their winning percentage. A not guilty verdict can negatively affect those percentages, especially in a high-profile case. If a prosecutor feels a case against a defendant is unwinnable, they may drop the case to avoid the potential negative publicity.
Prosecutors also drop charges in some cases because new evidence comes to light that implicates a different party. Lastly, prosecutors may drop certain charges against a defendant in exchange for a guilty plea on other charges, which helps them avoid the time, effort, and expense of a trial.
Strategies for Seeking Dismissal of Criminal Charges
Criminal defense lawyers often use several strategies to have charges against someone dropped, such as:
- Having key evidence thrown out — Evidence used in a criminal case must be obtained following specific legal procedures. If these procedures were not followed, an attorney can file a motion with the judge overseeing the case to have the evidence thrown out, which may irreparably damage the prosecution’s case.
- Investigating the prosecution’s witnesses — Police and prosecutors frequently rely on criminal informants and eyewitnesses to build a case. Paid informants often exaggerate or distort information in exchange for money or have charges against them dropped. Likewise, eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. If your criminal defense lawyer can make a prosecutor’s witnesses look unreliable or untrustworthy, the prosecutor may drop the case.
- Looking for procedural issues — Criminal defendants have certain rights under federal and state law. If these rights were violated (for example, if a defendant was denied the opportunity to speak with an attorney), the prosecution might be forced to drop the case.
- Showing another party committed the crime — Prosecutors and police sometimes make mistakes and charge the wrong person with a crime. If you can show you could not have committed the crime or that another person committed the crime, the prosecution could drop the case against you.
- Negotiating a plea agreement — Sometimes, there is no way to have charges against someone dismissed on procedural or technical grounds. In cases like these, you can still seek to have some charges dropped in exchange for a guilty plea. That could lessen the potential sentence you receive for the remaining charges.
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
As an experienced Richmond, VA, criminal defense lawyer, Samantha Upton knows how prosecutors build their cases and what weaknesses to look for. She can examine the case against you and look for potential holes to help you get a dismissal. Samantha can also negotiate for a reasonable plea agreement if doing so is in your best interest.
The knowledge and experience of a criminal defense lawyer can improve your chances of having the charges against you dismissed. Contact Upton Law, PLLC, today for a free confidential consultation.