April 26, 2021

What’s the Difference Between Charges Being Dropped or Dismissed?

court room and gavel

Getting arrested feels like a nightmare. If you or a loved one is detained, you’re most likely wishing you could go to sleep and wake up with life back to normal. Believe it or not, this can actually happen if the case is dropped or dismissed. Find out what’s different about each and if either could serve as a viable defense for you or your loved one.

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Contact the John F. Marchiano Law Corp. today.

What Does It Mean if Your Charges Are Dropped?

If your charges are dropped, it means that, at least for now, you won’t have to go to court to face them. You’re free to be released if you’re being detained. However, a prosecutor may decide to bring the charges back against you in the future, making it important to be aware of the risks going forward. Only in rare circumstances, such as if your charges were dropped after a trial began, is it not possible for dropped charges to be brought against you.

Why Would Your Charges Be Dropped?

After an arrest, there’s still plenty of work that a prosecutor needs to do in order to build a case against you that will stand up in court. During this process, they may decide that there isn’t enough evidence available to argue for your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In some cases, the arresting officer may have discretion to drop your case if they doubt you are actually guilty.  If any of the following circumstances occur, your case could be dropped:

The Victim Refuses to Cooperate

Sometimes the primary victim of the case will refuse to cooperate. If this happens, the prosecution will be missing the key component of their case and will typically drop their charges.

The Prosecuting Attorney is Too Busy

There’s no shortage of ongoing criminal cases, and a prosecuting attorney may choose to devote resources to others which they deem to be of higher value. That could lead to a dismissal of your case due to a lack of resources to handle it.

The Defendant Strikes a Deal

In larger cases or a case that is connected to another higher-value target, the defendant may strike a deal with the attorney to help them in exchange for dropping charges.

There Was a Fourth Amendment Violation

Your rights are protected under the Fourth Amendment, and if the case against you was built on a violation of it, then the prosecutor may move to drop your charges.

There Was a Procedural Violation

Prosecutors and police must carefully follow a set of procedures when building a case against you. If they violate this process, it may lead to your charges being dropped.

What Does It Mean if Your Charges Are Dismissed?

Once charges go to trial, they can no longer be dropped, but there still may be hope that they can be dismissed. However, only a judge will be able to make this determination once your case proceeds to a criminal trial. If a judge rules that your case should be dismissed, you’ll be free to go, but prosecutors may bring the same charges against you in the future. The only way this may not occur is if your charges are dismissed with prejudice or if jeopardy was attached.

Why Would Your Charges Be Dismissed?

Just because your charges have made it to court doesn’t mean you will still necessarily be tried for them. A judge will review the circumstances under which your case was built. If they find inconsistencies or irregularities in the way the prosecution built their case, they may dismiss it. A judge may dismiss your charges for similar reasons that a prosecutor would drop them, including the following:

There is Reasonable Doubt

If a judge determines that a reasonable doubt that you aren’t guilty exists, they may dismiss your case.

There Was a Fundamental Procedural Error

As noted, prosecutors and police must follow specific procedures when building a case against you. Due process violations are common procedural errors and major causes of cases being dismissed.

You Can’t Be Charged For The Crime

In rare instances, a defendant legally cannot face their charges because they fall under double jeopardy, have been granted immunity, or have been pardoned.

Evidence Was Obtained Illegally

If your case was built using evidence that was obtained illegally, your case might be dismissed. However, this isn’t universally applicable, as a prosecutor may be able to successfully argue that they would have discovered the evidence during their investigation anyway. You may still be convicted of a crime even if you can prove the evidence was obtained illegally.

What Happens if Your Charges Are Reduced?

Your charges may get reduced if prosecutors don’t have enough evidence to convict you on more severe charges but can on lesser charges. This is typically done through a plea bargain. You will accept a lesser sentence in exchange for prosecution dropping the more serious charges.

Choose John F. Marchiano Law to Defend You

A skilled criminal defense attorney can work to identify vulnerabilities in the prosecution’s case against you and work to have your charges dropped or dismissed. At the John F. Marchiano Law Corporation, we’ll carefully examine your case and can determine if this is a viable strategy for you. We have over 35 years of experience in representing defendants throughout the Henderson area. Contact us today for assistance if you’re facing criminal charges.