These Are the Easiest Ways to Get Your Criminal Case Dismissed
No lawyer can guarantee a dismissal of your criminal case. Most criminal cases are not dismissed. Instead, about 90% of criminal cases end in some form of plea bargain, 8% end with dismissal, and 2% go to a jury verdict.
But every case is different, and prosecutors have no choice except dismissal for some cases. Similarly, a judge may determine that your rights were violated and dismiss your case.
With these limitations in mind, here are the easiest ways to get your criminal case dismissed.
How Criminal Charges Get Dismissed
The legal system has many safeguards against faulty convictions. These safeguards do not always work. But in some cases, they prevent a miscarriage of justice by forcing the dismissal of your charges.
Two parties can dismiss charges:
After the police arrest you, the prosecutor charges you with a criminal offense. To file charges, the prosecution must have probable cause to believe that you committed a crime.
If your criminal defense attorney can convince the prosecutor that the case against you has problems, the prosecutor can file a motion with the court to dismiss the case.
The judge can also dismiss the charges against you. For example, the judge could find that the evidence is insufficient to support the charges. But in most cases, the judge will allow prosecutors to present their case to the jury and let the jury weigh the evidence.
The judge also has the authority to dismiss charges when the prosecutor’s case is legally defective. Legal defects can arise in the investigation, arrest, or prosecution of your case.
Grounds for Dismissal
Dismissals fall into a few categories. Some of these result in the prosecutor dismissing the charges, while others result in the court dismissing the charges.
California has authorized courts to create pretrial diversion programs for a variety of offenses. These programs allow you to enter mental health, behavioral, or substance abuse treatment programs before trial. You must also stay out of trouble while you attend your program. If you complete the program, the court will dismiss your charges.
You will not have a conviction on your criminal record. Your record will include your arrest record, but the court seals the arrest record upon successful completion of the diversion program. Only law enforcement can access it.
If you do not complete the pretrial diversion program, you will proceed to trial on your case.
Deferred Entry of Judgment
California also authorizes courts to create deferred entry of judgment programs. These programs are similar to the pretrial diversion but require you to plead guilty to enter the program.
If you complete the program, the court dismisses the charges. If you do not complete the program, the court sentences you based on your charges.
To enter a deferred entry of judgment program, you must waive your right to a trial and plead guilty. In a pretrial diversion program, the court does not require a guilty plea.
But the result is the same. If you complete the deferred entry of judgment program, the court will dismiss the charges, and you will not have a criminal conviction on your record.
Suppression of Evidence
If the police violated your rights when they investigated you, the court might exclude the evidence they collected. Without this evidence, the prosecutor might need to dismiss the charges.
The court could suppress evidence for many reasons, including:
The police must have your permission or a search warrant to conduct a pre-arrest search under the U.S. Constitution. The police can also seize evidence in plain sight or evidence that they discover while arresting you.
A common scenario involves the search of a vehicle during a traffic stop. If a search violated the U.S. Constitution, the judge could exclude the prosecution from using any drugs, weapons, or other evidence turned up in the search.
The prosecution cannot use a confession if it was not given voluntarily. This means that any coercion used by the police can result in the judge tossing out a confession.
Coercion can include:
- Physical assault
- Threats of assault
- Deprivation of food or water
- Refusing legal counsel
In some cases, a prosecution may rely on your confession. If the judge excludes the confession, the prosecutor may need to dismiss the charges.
Legally Defective Arrest
The police must have probable cause to arrest you legally. To get an arrest warrant or indictment, the prosecution must satisfy a judge or grand jury that it has sufficient cause to charge you with a crime.
In most situations in California, prosecutors do not seek an indictment from a grand jury. Instead, the police investigate crimes and arrest suspects. The police then provide the prosecutor with a probable cause statement to support the arrest.
In a preliminary hearing, the prosecution presents the evidence that law enforcement relied on for probable cause. In some cases, the court can see that the police did not collect enough evidence to support the charges, in which case the prosecution may move to dismiss the charges.
The police do not need to find evidence of your innocence. Instead, they only need to find evidence that you committed a crime. After the police arrest you, your criminal defense lawyer will need to investigate to uncover any exculpatory evidence.
Exculpatory evidence can perform a few functions, such as:
- Confirming your alibi
- Incriminating someone else
- Excluding you as a perpetrator
For example, physical evidence, such as DNA collected after a sexual assault, might exclude you as a perpetrator. Combined with a security video showing that you were at home when the crime was committed, a prosecutor might have no choice but to dismiss the charges.
After a Dismissal
A case might not go away after a judge or prosecutor dismisses charges. If charges are dismissed without prejudice, prosecutors can refile the charges if the police uncover new evidence. As a result, you should keep in contact with your criminal defense lawyer, so you have representation if the case resurfaces.
Last Updated on June 22, 2021