Facing criminal charges can be an extremely stressful and frightening experience. Even if you believe you are innocent, being formally charged with a crime means you now have to navigate the complex criminal justice system in order to defend yourself. Thankfully, there are options for getting criminal charges dropped before your case ever makes it to trial.
With the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, many people are able to get their charges dismissed or significantly reduced at the initial court appearance, saving them from a lengthy legal battle.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the most common ways charges get dropped before a court date in California and how an attorney can help maximize your chances of avoiding criminal prosecution.
Why Getting Charges Dropped Early is Ideal
Once charges have been filed against you by the prosecutor, your first formal court proceeding is typically the arraignment hearing. This is when you are formally notified of the charges against you and asked to enter a plea. Many people think the only options at arraignment are pleading guilty or not guilty and assume the next stop if pleading not guilty is a full criminal trial. But there is also the possibility of an arraignment of getting the charges dropped completely.
Getting criminal charges dropped before your court date is the ideal outcome for several reasons:
- It avoids the risk of conviction at trial, which can result in hefty fines, probation requirements, and even jail time.
- It prevents you from having a permanent criminal record that could impact future employment, housing applications, and more.
- It saves you from mounting costly legal fees required to take a case all the way through trial.
- It reduces stress and uncertainty by resolving the case quickly.
- If cleared of charges early on, your criminal record will show no sign of an arrest, enhancing your reputation.
So, while preparing a strong legal defense for trial is prudent, getting the charges dropped before ever stepping foot in a courtroom is undoubtedly the best-case scenario when facing criminal prosecution.
How Charges Get Dropped Before Court
There are a few common ways that charges end up dismissed or dropped before a court date:
One of the most common reasons charges get dropped early is due to insufficient evidence. The prosecutor has the burden of proving the criminal charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt. Your criminal defense lawyer is able to examine the proof and witness statements collected by police and prosecutors and identify any holes in the case against you.
If the evidence seems flimsy or incomplete, your attorney can approach the prosecutor to explain why they will have a hard time proving the charges at trial. The prosecutor may agree to drop or reduce the charges rather than risk losing at trial.
In some cases, charges may be dropped because the original arrest was unlawful. If the police did not have probable cause to make the arrest or violated your rights in the arrest process, any evidence collected may be inadmissible in court.
Your lawyer can file a motion asserting that the arrest was invalid. If a judge agrees, the prosecutor has no choice but to dismiss the charges.
When choosing whether to press charges or drop them, prosecutors are granted a great deal of discretion. Your criminal defense attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor to get charges dismissed or reduced.
Often, prosecutors are open to dropping a more serious felony charge in exchange for a plea to a misdemeanor. Other times, prosecutors may agree to drop charges entirely if a defendant agrees to cooperate as a witness in other cases.
Finally, prosecutors can unilaterally decide to dismiss charges before a case goes to court, even without a plea deal. They may decide certain charges aren’t worth pursuing based on the defendant’s lack of criminal history or due to priorities in prosecuting more serious crimes. This is especially common with minor misdemeanor charges.
Prosecutors can motion to dismiss charges at any time, as they have broad authority over their cases. But for defendants, the best chance of getting charges dropped voluntarily is often at that initial arraignment hearing.
How an Attorney Can Convince Prosecutors to Drop Charges
There are several effective strategies a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney may use to convince prosecutors to drop charges against you prior to trial:
- Present Exculpatory Evidence: Your attorney may uncover evidence that contradicts the prosecutor’s account or establishes justification or mitigating circumstances. Sharing this can cast doubt.
- Challenge the Prosecution’s Case: By aggressively contesting the validity of charges and poking holes in the prosecution’s theory, your attorney may persuade them the case is too weak to prosecute.
- Negotiate “Lesser Deal” Plea Bargains: Your attorney may be able to bargain for pleading guilty to reduced charges in exchange for the more serious charges being dropped.
- Apply for Pretrial Diversion: Counsel may negotiate with prosecutors to drop charges upon completion of pretrial diversion requirements tailored to your case.
- Leverage Defendant Cooperation: If you possess critical information related to other cases, your attorney can leverage your cooperation as grounds for dropped charges.
- Present Mitigating Factors: By highlighting mitigating evidence regarding your background and offenses, counsel may convince prosecutors that dropping charges is in the interest of justice.
- File Suppression Motions: If your attorney succeeds in motions suppressing illegally obtained evidence, prosecutors may be forced to abandon the case.
- Dispute Unreliable Witnesses: Discrediting the credibility of prosecution witnesses through investigation and cross-examination can dismantle their case theory.
- Point to Expired Statutes of Limitations: If the legal time window has expired for filing certain charges, your lawyer can argue for mandatory dismissal.
How a Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
Having an assertive, seasoned criminal defense attorney in your corner is the most impactful factor in fighting to get charges dropped.
The Bay Area defense lawyers at The Nieves Law Firm have a proven track record of achieving pre-trial dismissal of charges through meticulous case-building and assertive negotiation. From DUI charges to serious felonies, they have the resources to take on your case.
Don’t wait to act – contact their team today for a consultation.