If you’re facing criminal charges, you might be wondering if there’s any way to have those charges dropped. While the possibility exists, it’s important for you to understand that this process largely depends on the circumstances surrounding your case and the discretion of certain parties in the legal system. Understanding what dropping charges means and how it occurs will be helpful so you can make informed decisions along the way.

What Does Dropping Charges Mean?

Dropping charges means that the prosecutor decides not to pursue criminal action against the defendant. This can happen at any point in the legal process, from shortly after an arrest to well into a trial. When charges are dropped, you are essentially no longer accused of committing that particular crime and will not have to go through a trial for those specific allegations.

Is Dropping Charges the Same as Dismissing Charges?

No, dropping charges isn’t the same as dismissing them. It’s important to understand the distinction.

Dropping charges is generally initiated by the prosecution when they decide not to proceed with a case for various reasons. Dismissing charges occurs after a case has been filed and is typically done by a judge. When charges are dismissed, it’s often because there has been a legal reason determined by the court that prohibits the case from going forward. It might be due to insufficient evidence, procedural errors, or constitutional rights being violated during the investigation or arrest.

The Victim Cannot Drop Criminal Charges 

Many people believe that if a victim decides they no longer wish to pursue the case, the charges will be automatically dropped. In reality, it’s not up to the victim. Once a complaint has been filed and law enforcement becomes involved or once prosecutors choose to file charges, it’s within their power – not the victim’s – to decide whether to pursue prosecution.

For example, in a domestic violence case, a prosecutor may consider a victim’s wishes when deciding on how to proceed. However, they are never obligated to dismiss a case simply because a victim doesn’t want to move forward.

While a victim cannot formally drop charges once they are filed by the prosecutor, their cooperation is often crucial to the success of a case. If a victim refuses to testify or doesn’t show up in court when subpoenaed, it can significantly affect the prosecution’s ability to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, sometimes derailing it completely. 

However, there could be consequences for victims who disobey court orders or subpoenas. While prosecutors generally avoid forcing victims to testify, they could theoretically face a bench warrant and arrest for failing to show up to trial.

Why Do Charges Get Dropped?

Charges can be dropped for a myriad of reasons that lead a prosecutor to conclude their chances of securing a conviction are diminished or when proceeding is not deemed to be appropriate. Here are some of the most common scenarios under which charges may get dropped:

Lack of Evidence

This is probably the most common reason. If evidence doesn’t strongly support an accusation, it’s unlikely prosecutors will get a conviction. Rather than waste time and resources, they will sometimes drop the charges. 

Evidence Issues 

Even with sufficient evidence, if it was obtained illegally (such as without the necessary search warrants or without Miranda warnings), courts won’t allow it to be presented if the defense attorney files a successful motion to suppress. Without key evidence, the prosecutor may have no choice but to drop the charges. 

Witness Unavailability or Non-Cooperation

The absence of a crucial witness – because they have become unresponsive, moved away, cannot be located, or adamantly will not cooperate – can leave prosecutors without enough proof. This often leads them to reconsider the viability of their case.

Plea Bargains

Sometimes, charges are dropped because a defendant reaches an agreement with prosecutors. In exchange for pleading guilty to a lesser charge, the defendant might agree to certain conditions like restitution or counseling or provide information on another case (acting as an informant). The prosecutor may decide to drop more serious charges, making a plea deal beneficial for both parties.

A San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help With Your Charges

Knowing why and how prosecutors choose not to proceed with criminal charges often reveals opportunities or strategies for building a strong case for dismissal or reduction. If you have questions or need help with your case, contact us today to schedule a free consultation with a San Diego criminal defense lawyer.

Contact a San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer at Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers Today For Help

For more information please contact the San Diego criminal defense attorneys at Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers for a free consultation, give us a call at (619) 357-4977 or visit our convenient location:

Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers – San Diego Criminal Defense Law Firm
255 Broadway, Ste 1740. San Diego, CA. 92101