If you have been charged with committing a crime – any felony or misdemeanor – in southern California, you will need to have an experienced drug crimes attorney in Long Beach assess the facts of the case in order to craft an effective strategy for your defense.
In some criminal cases in this state, a charge can be dropped or dismissed before a trial commences. In fact, criminal charges are dropped and dismissed in California more frequently than you might think.
FOR WHAT REASONS ARE CRIMINAL CHARGES DISMISSED OR DROPPED?
In what situations can a felony or a misdemeanor charge be dropped or dismissed in this state?
These are among the most frequently-offered legal reasons for dropping or dismissing a criminal charge:
- No probable cause existed for stopping, searching, or arresting you.
- The evidence is corrupted, insufficient, or missing.
- A prejudicial flaw or mistake is discovered in the case’s legal documents.
- A key witness has altered his or her story or is unavailable to testify.
WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF PROBABLE CAUSE?
The Constitution – specifically the Fourth Amendment – prohibits the government from conducting searches that are “unreasonable.” If, for instance, a law enforcement officer stops you in traffic, you can’t be searched or arrested merely on the basis of that officer’s “hunch.”
“Probable cause” is defined as evidence that supports and points to a reasonable belief that a criminal act has occurred and that a particular suspect should be apprehended, searched, placed in custody, and charged for committing the purported crime.
If your defense lawyer can convince a judge or a prosecutor that the police violated your constitutionally-protected rights, a prosecutor can “drop” the case against you or a judge can “dismiss” the charge, unless the state has additional evidence to use against you.
IF THE STATE’S EVIDENCE IS INSUFFICIENT, WHAT CAN HAPPEN?
If the state doesn’t have evidence that is sufficient to convict you – that is, if the state cannot prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt – the prosecutor may simply opt to drop the charge.
However, in such circumstances, a criminal suspect must be advised and defended by an experienced Long Beach criminal defense lawyer who can effectively show that the evidence in the case has been lost, tainted, or is insufficient to convict you on the criminal charge.
If the case against you was based on witness statements, and if the witnesses are no longer available to appear in court, or if the testimony has changed, a prosecutor may decide to drop the criminal charge against you.
CAN A CHARGE BE DROPPED BECAUSE OF A PAPERWORK MISTAKE?
We all sometimes read about a case getting thrown out of court after a prosecutor or a law enforcement officer didn’t follow an exact protocol or made a simple mistake doing the paperwork – such as transposing numbers or misspelling someone’s name.
Candidly speaking, a misspelling or a misprint is rarely the reason a charge can be dismissed. Frequently, however, mistakes are found in the charging document – the paperwork that officially brings a criminal charge against someone.
A charging document mistake does not necessarily mean that the charge will be dismissed. That can happen only if the mistake is “prejudicial” or has in any way hindered the defendant’s capability to put forth a plausible defense.
CHARGES “DISMISSED” OR “DROPPED” – WHAT IS THE DISTINCTION?
In casual conversations, the terms “dropping a charge” and “dismissing a charge” are often used interchangeably and imprecisely. Although either outcome is good for defendants, dropping charges and dismissing charges are somewhat different legal procedures.
Prosecutors can “drop” charges at any time or simply not file any charge after a suspect’s arrest. However, a judge or a prosecutor can’t “dismiss” a case until after a charge is filed.
ARE CHARGES DISMISSED OR DROPPED ON ANY OTHER BASIS?
Along with the reasons mentioned previously, a California prosecutor may decide to drop a specific charge against a defendant for a “practical” reason instead of a legal reason.
Charges are sometimes dropped for reasons like these:
Resources: California’s crowded courts and hard-working prosecutors prefer to concentrate on the most serious crimes. If the charge against you is for a low-level, non-violent misdemeanor, there’s a chance the charge may be dropped, or the case dismissed.
Leniency: If it’s a low-level, non-violent misdemeanor charge, and particularly if you’re a first-time defendant, a good Long Beach criminal defense lawyer may be successful at convincing a prosecutor or a judge to drop or dismiss the charge.
Cooperation: If you are able to help the state with another criminal case, especially a more serious case, a prosecutor may drop charges in consideration for your testimony and/or evidence.
WHAT IF YOU’RE UNDER INVESTIGATION?
If you’re under investigation by a southern California law enforcement agency, or if you think that you may be suspected for a crime, arrange at once to consult a reliable defense attorney about your situation.
Your lawyer might be able to intercede on your behalf during an investigation and persuade a prosecutor not to file a charge or to file only a lesser charge. In some cases, a plea bargain can even be arranged before any charge is filed.
This is critically important, and it cannot be emphasized strongly enough: Do not – for any reason whatsoever – speak with a police officer, investigator, or prosecutor without having your own defense attorney present.
WHAT IF THE CHARGE AGAINST YOU CAN’T BE DROPPED OR DISMISSED?
If you are charged with a felony or with a misdemeanor in southern California, and if that charge can’t be dismissed or dropped, your defense attorney will:
- review each detail of the case
- question witnesses and compile evidence
- craft the best possible defense on your behalf
- advocate aggressively for the justice you need
WHEN SHOULD YOU SPEAK TO A CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAW FIRM IN CALIFORNIA?
You can’t face any criminal charge – not even a low-level misdemeanor – alone. There will be too much at stake – your freedom and your future, for example. If you are accused of a crime or under investigation in this state, you must be defended by a top-notch criminal defense attorney.
You will need to contact an attorney as soon as possible after an arrest – or as soon as you learn or suspect that you are under investigation. Your future may depend on it.