Most criminal cases do not end up at trial. Either the charges are dropped, or the defendant reaches a plea agreement with the prosecutor. Your criminal defense attorney may look for a way to get the charges dropped if it is at all possible. In some cases, the charges are dropped when you successfully fight and stand up for your legal rights. In other cases, the charges may be dropped as part of a deal with the prosecutor.
The Prosecutor Must Adhere to Their Own Obligations
The prosecutor has the ultimate decision about whether to drop the charges (although a judge can dismiss them). According to the American Bar Association:
Theoretically, if the prosecutor realizes that they do not have probable cause to bring you to trial or there are other reasons why they cannot win a conviction, they should not continue to pursue the case against you.
When you hire a criminal defense attorney, they will work to get the charges against you dropped, if possible.
Besides their ethical considerations, the prosecutor wants to win a conviction in your case. However, they also do not want to take the risk of going to trial if they do not think that they have a strong case. The prosecutor is investing a significant amount of resources in a trial, and a loss does not look good for them.
There Is No Longer Probable Cause
The core requirement to charge you with a criminal offense is that law enforcement has evidence to show that there is probable cause to believe that you committed a crime. The charges are based on a combination of evidence, which can include witness testimony or documentary proof.
At some point during the trial process, the prosecutor may no longer believe that there is probable cause to try you. They may speak with a witness, or they may learn more in the investigation of your case. If there is no probable cause, the prosecutor must drop the charges.
Your attorney may also present the prosecutor with exculpatory evidence that shows you did not commit the crime. You may have an alibi witness or other proof that you could not have done what was alleged. While the prosecutor should drop the charges in the face of solid exculpatory evidence, it is rare for them to do so.
The Prosecution Loses Key Evidence
One reason why there may no longer be probable cause is that the prosecutor could lose key evidence that they intend to use against you. Before you go to trial, the prosecutor would need to turn over evidence that they want to use in your case. Your lawyer may object to certain evidence on various grounds. For example, police may not have had the right to search your property.
The judge would rule on your motions to suppress certain evidence before the trial. They may rule that the prosecutor cannot use some evidence against you. For example, if drugs that were found during a search are the basis of the charges, and you were illegally searched, the judge could keep that evidence from coming into court. If the prosecutor no longer has a viable case after they lose that evidence, they could drop the charges.
You Should Not Have Been Arrested in the First Place
In many cases, your charges follow an arrest. Law enforcement needed to have probable cause to arrest you in the first place. If they stopped you to investigate (known as a “Terry Stop”), they must have had a reasonable suspicion of involvement in criminal activity.
An unlawful arrest is a violation of your legal rights. Law enforcement would need to drop the charges. However, you may have to prove an unlawful arrest at trial. You may even be able to file a lawsuit against the police department for an unlawful arrest.
You Enter a Pre-Trial Diversion Program
There are times when trying you is not in the interest of justice. Society and the legal system may be better off if you are rehabilitated without the need for a full-fledged trial. In some cases, the prosecutor could offer you the option of going through a pre-trial diversion that would result in the charges being dropped. You may go through counseling or pay restitution.
First, you must be eligible for a pre-trial diversion. Then, you must persuade the prosecutor to allow you to participate in the program. When criminal defense attorneys say that they will work for the best possible outcome, they often have a diversion program in mind if you cannot fight the charges against you.
You Should Hire an Attorney if You Want to Work to Get the Charges Dropped
You stand a much better chance of getting charges dropped if you have hired an attorney than when you are trying to proceed on your own. Although the prosecutor has an ethical obligation not to move forward with a case when they believe that they cannot win a conviction, they may not realize that there is an issue unless a lawyer brings it to their attention. They may be more inclined to listen to an attorney who can make legal arguments than a defendant acting on their own.
Contact an Appleton Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
When you have been charged with a crime, it is in your best interest to get legal help as soon as possible. Then, your attorney would have the time and ability to review your case to learn whether there are ways that you can fight the felony or misdemeanor charges against you. They may be able to engage the prosecutor in discussions. The attorneys at Hogan Eickhoff can work on your side. Call us today at (920) 450-9800 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.