When a police officer arrests you for a crime, the first thought most people have is how to get out of the criminal charges. They may talk to a defense lawyer to get legal advice about the possibility of getting the criminal charges dropped.
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What Does It Mean When a Prosecutor Drops Criminal Charges in San Diego?
Dropping criminal charges means dismissing charges that have already been filed. If the state has not filed criminal charges, dropping charges means the state has decided not to pursue a criminal case against you.
There are two ways to get your case dismissed. The prosecutor may dismiss the charges against you. Or, a judge may dismiss the case after your criminal defense lawyer files a motion to dismiss.
When criminal charges are dropped or dismissed, there is no criminal record against you. The arrest appears on your criminal record, but your record reflects that the charges were dismissed.
Why Are Criminal Charges Dropped?
An arrest is not the same thing as a guilty verdict. If you do not plead guilty, there is a chance the prosecutor will dismiss the charges. Reasons why prosecutors drop charges include:
Violations of Your Fourth Amendment Rights
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that you are protected against unlawful searches and seizures by law enforcement officers. If you were subject to an illegal search, your attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence obtained during the search.
If the court finds that the police officers needed a search warrant or the search warrant was illegally obtained, the judge may “suppress” any evidence gathered as a result of the illegal search. Suppressing evidence means the evidence cannot be used in court against you.
A police officer might have the legal right to search you, your home, or your car without a warrant in some situations. The best way to know if you are the subject of an illegal search is to talk to a defense attorney.
Insufficient Evidence to Prosecute
The prosecutor might have insufficient evidence to obtain a grand jury indictment or proceed with a criminal charge. Your attorney will request copies of all evidence the state has against you. Your lawyer will then analyze the evidence to identify the weaknesses in the state’s case.
A skilled criminal defense lawyer will present a reasonable argument to the prosecutor that the state has no basis for a criminal conviction. The prosecutor might decide to dismiss the charges. Alternatively, the prosecutor might agree to reduce the criminal charges and agree to favorable terms for a plea agreement.
Lack of Probable Cause
To make a traffic stop or detain you, a police officer must have had a reasonable suspicion that:
- You committed a crime;
- You were about to commit a crime; or,
- You were in the process of committing a crime.
The officer must have probable cause to make an arrest without a warrant. If not, the judge could dismiss the criminal charges against you.
Cooperating Witnesses and Informants
The prosecutor may use you as a cooperating witness or informant if you have information about other crimes. In exchange for the information and your testimony against another person, the prosecutor might be willing to drop the charges or reduce the criminal charges against you.
The Witness is Unavailable
In some criminal cases, the charges hinge on the testimony of a witness. If the witness is unavailable, the prosecution might not have sufficient evidence to prove its case. In that situation, the court might dismiss the criminal charges.
Errors in the Criminal Complaint
A police officer writes a charging document or criminal complaint. The information is signed under oath.
If the document contains a significant error or does not comply with the law, the officer needs to amend the document. When the officer is not available or there is a problem, the prosecutor might need to drop the charges if another officer involved in the case can correct the errors.
In some cases, there could be extenuating or mitigating circumstances. The prosecutor has the discretion to drop charges based on the facts of the case.
For example, the defendant has a clean criminal record and was being pressured to commit the crime. In that case, the prosecutor may decide to drop the criminal charges. The prosecutor could also reduce the criminal charges and offer a favorable plea deal.
Your Conduct Did Not Constitute a Crime
The prosecutor must prove each legal element of a criminal charge. If your conduct did not constitute a crime, the prosecutor might dismiss the charges. Your attorney might file a motion to dismiss the case by asking the judge to dismiss the charges based on insufficient evidence to prove all legal elements to prove you committed a crime.
Pretrial Diversion Programs
Some criminal charges might qualify for pretrial diversion programs. If the court allows you to enter a program, you have the opportunity to get the criminal charges dropped. First, however, you must complete the program requirements, including substance abuse programs, community service, fines, anger management classes, and other requirements.
The state cannot use a confession that you did not give voluntarily. If police officers coerced you into confessing to a crime, the judge could throw out your confession. Coercion can include threats of assault, physical violence, refusing to provide legal counsel, and deprivation of water, food, or sleep.
What Should You Do if You Are Arrested in San Diego?
Do not talk to the prosecutor or law enforcement officers without an attorney present. You cannot talk your way out of criminal charges. Anything you say could be used against you at trial.
Instead, remain silent until you can discuss your case with a San Diego criminal defense lawyer. Hiring a defense attorney as soon as possible gives you the best chance of beating criminal charges. Public defenders do not have the resources, skills, or time a private defense attorney has to handle a criminal case.
Your lawyer will advise you of the steps to take after your release. Generally, you need to stay out of trouble and avoid talking to or being near any of the victims or other defendants in your case. Also, avoid posting things online while your criminal case is pending.
Contact Our San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer for a Free Consultation
Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney in San Diego is your best defense against criminal charges. An attorney analyzes the evidence against you to determine the best way to fight the charges. The goal is a dismissal, but if that is impossible, your lawyer aggressively works to have the criminal charges reduced to avoid harsh penalties.