Why Are Criminal Charges Dropped or Dismissed? | Neal Davis (2024)

If you face a criminal charge, you may be wondering how such charges can be dropped or dismissed. Houston attorney Neal Davis has succeeded in getting many charges dropped or dismissed throughout the course of his career, and he may be able to help you too.

First, though, we’ll answer a few common questions.

It's worth noting that not all criminal charges go to trial. Indeed, many charges are dropped prior to trial during negotiations between prosecutors and defense lawyers. But it is only the prosecutor who can drop such charges.

That can happen when a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney such as Neal Davis represents you. Neal Davis knows about many factors which can weigh against the prosecution's case, from insufficient evidence to lack of witness credibility to inadmissible evidence.

Neal Davis also understands that there's an important difference between dropping charges and dismissing charges.

What Does It Mean When a Case is Dismissed?

In some ways they are the same, since each results in a defendant going free. But charges can be dismissed only after such charges have been filed. A charge can be dropped before or after a charge has been filed.

You may need a charge dropped by the prosecutor, or you may need a charge dismissed by the prosecutor, though a court also can dismiss a charge if the prosecutor has made a fundamental legal error in the case.

Either way, Neal Davis can help you.

Note: This article focuses on achieving a dismissal on active or pending criminal charges. For those interested in obtaining dismissals on past cases, please see our related article about Expunction: How to Clear Your Criminal Record in Texas.


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Why Do Prosecutors Drop Charges?

As for why prosecutors drop charges, that can be due to many factors. Among them is when a victim in a criminal charge — a victim around whom the case is built — decides not to cooperate. The victim may have changed his or her mind, and it's then pointless for the prosecutor to proceed without more evidence.

Here are five other possible reasons why your attorney might be able to get your charges dropped or dismissed:

  • Insufficient evidence. A prosecutor may drop a criminal charge if it is determined that the evidence against the accused isn't strong enough. Or, perhaps new evidence is found which undercuts the prosecution's case against the defendant. Your attorney may be able to intercede with the DA and prosecutors when first reviewing police reports and argue that there is no basis for bringing a formal charge against in the first place you due to insufficient evidence. If charges get filed regardless of insufficient evidence, then our attorney can file a motion of case dismissal.

  • Fourth Amendment violations. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens against unlawful searches and seizures by police, investigators, and law enforcement. Any evidence illegally obtained can and should be excluded from the case. Prosecutors may drop a criminal charge if it's determined that some of their evidence was legally obtained and is inadmissible in court. A skilled defense attorney can show if that has happened, perhaps due to police failure to get a proper warrant to search for evidence. Any evidence found without securing a proper warrant is then deemed inadmissible and may lead to a prosecutor dropping or dismissing the criminal charge.

  • Procedural issues. Police and prosecutors must follow strict criminal procedures when arresting, booking, interrogating, setting a bail hearing, or engaging in pretrial activities. If a defendant's rights are violated, these procedural errors may actually be grounds for a case dismissal or sentence reduction. However, these issues can be complicated, so it is important you work with a skilled and knowledgeable defense attorney.

  • Lack of resources. The reality is that prosecutors and district attorneys often deal with far too many cases than they are able to handle. As a result, they may be forced to allocate their time and resources to certain priority cases, while dropping or dismissing minor crimes. This is more likely if you're accused of a minor crime and you have no previous criminal record.

  • Willingness to cooperate. If prosecutors find that you are willing to work with authorities to help solve other crimes or help in some other circ*mstance, they might be convinced by your attorney to work out a deal where they reduce your sentence or drop/dismiss your case altogether.

In the case of Fourth Amendment violations, police can search a person, house or car without a search warrant in some circ*mstances. If police have reasons to believe an arrested person is carrying a criminal weapon, a search can be made.

Police can also search a vehicle after arresting the driver for driving while intoxicated (DWI). Or police can go into a house without a search warrant in the event of an emergency, such as shots being fired.

A charge may, however, be dropped if it's found that the suspect was subjected to an illegal stop or there was lack of probable cause to make an arrest. Police must have a reasonable belief, based on clear facts, that an arrest is appropriate. Police cannot arrest you due to a gut feeling or "profiling" your race.

In any event, your defense lawyer can make the case for you that a charge should be dropped by pointing out these reasons to prosecutors.

Why Do Courts and Prosecutors Dismiss Charges?

After charges are filed, prosecutors and sometimes courts may dismiss such charges for some of the same reasons that charges are dropped before being filed. Evidence may be poor, witnesses may be unavailable or illegal tactics may have been used to gather evidence or make arrests.

Again, a criminal defense attorney can advance this process, which is best done early in legal proceedings, or during what's known as a pretrial negotiation phase.

Before going to court for a trial, a defense lawyer can argue that the prosecution's case will not prevail at trial and urge the prosecution to dismiss or drop the charge. The prosecution may counter with an offer to reduce the charge. Your attorney then may counter that even the reduced charge will not prevail in court.

What Is a Grand Jury Dismissal?

As for what is a grand jury dismissal, that occurs when a grand jury is convened to consider indictment on a charge, and it's determined that the case isn't strong enough. The grand jury then can dismiss or "no-bill" the charge, or the prosecutor can dismiss it. Prosecutors prefer doing that rather than spending time prosecuting a case they cannot win.

Again, grand jury dismissal can occur only before the chance of a grand jury indictment.

What About Reducing a Charge?

You may wonder about the possibility of reducing a charge. This can be done when the evidence isn't strong enough for a certain charge, but it may be strong enough for a lesser charge.

Prosecutors then may offer a "plea bargain agreement." That occurs when prosecutors agree to dismiss the original charge if the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest to a less severe charge instead.

Neal Davis can guide you and protect your legal rights in plea bargain agreements. He even may advise you to reject such an agreement if the case against the original charge is weak.

Keep in mind that, under Texas law, in most cases the original charge would not be expunged or taken off your record after a plea bargain agreement, even though you did not go to trial on that charge. However, if you faced the original charge and weren't convicted, it could be expunged from your criminal record.

How to Get Your Charge Dropped or Dismissed

As you can see, there are many ways to get your charge dropped or dismissed. But for that to happen, first you need to see a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney such as Neal Davis.

Neal Davis is no stranger to examining factors such as insufficient evidence, Fourth Amendment violations, and procedural errors. He has succeeded in getting many charges dropped or dismissed before a case goes to trial - and he may be able to help you, too.

Get a legal review of your case today

Why Are Criminal Charges Dropped or Dismissed? | Neal Davis (2024)


What is one reason prosecutors may decide to dismiss cases? ›

If the judge does not believe there was strong enough evidence, he could dismiss the case. Lost evidence. If key evidence is lost that is necessary to prove you committed the crime, the charges against you could be dismissed by the judge or voluntarily by the prosecutor.

What does it mean when a charge is dismissed but read in? ›

A defendant cannot be sentenced for a read-in offense, since no conviction was ever obtained on the read-in offense. Charges that are dismissed and read in may be considered at sentencing, but only for purposes of sentencing on the crimes for which the defendant was convicted.

What does drop the charges against mean? ›

If a prosecutor drops a charge against you, it means: he/she will no longer pursue the charge against you, the case does not advance to trial, and. you do not have to face any penalties for the alleged offense.

Why do prosecutors sometimes choose not to prosecute criminal cases? ›

Doing justice means that a prosecutor occasionally decides not to prosecute a case (or files less severe charges) because the interests of justice require it, even if the facts of the case might support a conviction.

What is the most common reason cases are rejected by prosecutors? ›

Generally speaking, person offenses are much more likely to be rejected or dismissed than other offense categories. This is expected, because person offenses pose unique investigative and prosecutorial challenges; evidence comes largely from victim or witness testimony.

What factors do prosecutors consider when deciding to prosecute a case? ›

(a) A prosecutor should seek or file criminal charges only if the prosecutor reasonably believes that the charges are supported by probable cause, that admissible evidence will be sufficient to support conviction beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the decision to charge is in the interests of justice.

What is malicious prosecution example? ›

Malicious prosecution occurs when someone sues you or brings criminal charges against you without probable cause and with harmful intent. Examples could include someone providing false evidence to the police that you committed a crime or someone suing you for hurting them even if you never caused them harm.

What does it mean to read in charges? ›

Read-in means any crime that is uncharged or which is dismissed as part of a plea agreement, that the defendant agrees to be considered by the court at sentencing and that the court considers at the time of sentencing the defendant for the crime for which the defendant was convicted.

What does dismissed but read in mean in Wisconsin? ›

A plea agreement may specify that one or more dismissed charges be “read in” at sentencing. A judge considers the read-in charges at sentencing, even though the defendant does not plead to those charges and cannot be prosecuted for them in the future. Judges are not bound by plea agreements but usually accept them.

What is it called when all charges are dropped? ›

Dismissed Charge. A dropped charge is slightly different from a dismissed charge. Both will stop the government from pursuing a criminal case against you for the charge. However, a dropped charge pertains to a prosecutor deciding to stop the case, while a dismissed charge pertains to a judge deciding to stop the case.

What is the word for getting charges dropped? ›

Acquitted: means you have been found not guilty by a court of law in a criminal trial. Dismissed: means the court or prosecutor has decided the charge against you should not go forward, terminating the case. No charges filed/Charges dropped: means the prosecutor has declined to pursue the case.

What is the word for the charges to be dropped? ›

On this page you'll find 11 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to clear of charges, such as: acquit, escape punishment, find not guilty, get away with, get off, and get off scot-free.

Why do prosecutors drag out criminal cases? ›

A prosecutor may drop a criminal charge if it is determined that the evidence against the accused isn't strong enough. Or, perhaps new evidence is found which undercuts the prosecution's case against the defendant.

What is a weak case? ›

A Weak Plea Deal is Offered

If the prosecutor offers some form of deal or diversion without a fight this may mean he doesn't have a strong case.

Why would a prosecutor take a weak case to trial? ›

If they believe a suspect is guilty of a serious crime but have some doubts about the strength of the evidence, prosecutors are likely to file charges and pursue the case to trial rather than attempting to bargain it away.

What is the hardest case to prosecute? ›

Three of The Most Difficult Charges to Defend
  • Crimes Against Minors. It can be challenging to defend clients who have been accused of crimes against minors. ...
  • Murder, First Degree. The most severe criminal charge that anybody may face is first-degree murder. ...
  • White Collar Crimes.

What is considered weak evidence for prosecutors? ›

Further, even if there are witnesses, a prosecutor may have a weak case if they are not credible. A witness will usually lack credibility if he/she does not have a strong reputation of truthfulness. If no witnesses, or no credible witnesses, no one can corroborate that you committed a criminal offense.

What is the biggest factor a prosecutor considers when deciding on criminal prosecution? ›

The decision to prosecute is based on the following factors: The sufficiency of the evidence linking the suspect to the offense. The seriousness of the offense. The size of the court's caseload.

What are the main decision points for prosecutors? ›

These decision points will include arrest, prosecutorial charging, pretrial release, diversion, plea bargaining, sentencing, and community control compliance.

What elements of a crime must a prosecutor prove for a conviction? ›

In order to convict the defendant, these elements of a crime must then be proven in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt. Most crimes require that three essential elements be present: a criminal act (actus reus), criminal intent (mens rea), and a concurrence of the previous two elements.

What are 3 factors that courts use to make case decisions? ›

Three factors come into play when it comes to court proceedings: relevance, materiality, and weight of the evidence given by witnesses during trial proceedings.

What are examples of malicious intent? ›

She claims that they included falsifying records and criminal malicious intent. For example, false accusations are sometimes made against teachers where there is malicious intent. Some people might have malicious intent or might be easily frightened.

What is malicious intent? ›

(məlɪʃəs ) adjective. If you describe someone's words or actions as malicious, you mean that they are intended to harm people or their reputation, or cause them embarrassment and upset.

What is criminal malicious intent? ›

Malicious intent means the person acted willfully or intentionally to cause harm, without legal justification.

What does an open charge mean? ›

Pending or open charges are those that haven't been resolved by dismissal, a guilty plea, or a verdict. Sometimes, open charges refer to the allegations outlined in an arresting officer's report that must be reviewed by the prosecutor's office before formal charges will be filed.

How do you know if you are charged? ›

If you suspect you have been charged with a crime even though the police have not yet contacted you, you can ask your local police department to perform a warrant check. This will uncover any charges filed against you.

What does an open case mean? ›

: a case that is still being investigated (as by the police) We can't talk about the case. It's still an open investigation.

What happens in dismissed? ›

Legal action has been terminated and the state is not moving forward with the prosecution — at least for now. A case can be dismissed at any time during the process, including before trial, during trial, or even after trial (if a convicted defendant wins on appeal.)

What is the difference between dismiss and dismissed? ›

At the end of a lesson period, your teacher says, "class dismissed." This means that you and the rest of the students are free to go. Dismiss means to let go. If a judge dismisses a case, it means he's saying it has no merit, and is throwing it out of court.

How long do dismissed charges stay on record Wisconsin? ›

Changes to Wisconsin CCAP Records

In other words, two years from the date the case was closed in court, the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access website should remove the record from CCAP.

What is the difference between dismissed with prejudice and without? ›

A case dismissed with prejudice is over and done with, once and for all, and can't be brought back to court. A case dismissed without prejudice means the opposite. It's not dismissed forever. The person whose case it is can try again.

What does decline to prosecute mean? ›

Declined to Prosecute means that the case was dismissed. “Petition filed” means that the juvenile essentially failed probation and was sent back to family court. “Success” is somewhat subjective: it means that a probation officer assessed that the juvenile completed the terms of a program into which he was placed.

What is the law of double jeopardy? ›

The double jeopardy principle protects people from being prosecuted twice for the same crime. In other words, the double jeopardy clause guarantees that there will be no prosecution after an acquittal for the same crime, no dual convictions for the same crime, and there are no multiple punishments for the same crime.

What is another word for disputing a charge? ›

The terms “dispute” and “chargeback” are sometimes used interchangeably.

What is a synonym for no charged? ›

synonyms for no charge

On this page you'll find 15 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to no charge, such as: chargeless, complimentary, compliments of the house, costless, for nothing, and for the asking.

What is the word for charge in court? ›

arraignment summons impeachment accusation prosecution allegation charge indictment.

What does unconditionally dismissed mean? ›

s76 of the Sentencing Act – Unconditional dismissal. A court, on being satisfied that a person is guilty of an offence, may (without recording a conviction) dismiss the charge.

What is the word for clear of crime? ›

​​​​​​​​​Glossary. In general, an exoneration occurs when a person who has been convicted of a crime is officially cleared after new evidence of innocence becomes available.

What is considered insufficient evidence? ›

Insufficient evidence is the evidence which fails to meet the burden of proof and is inadequate to prove a fact.

Can prosecutors withhold evidence of guilt? ›

Only judges can put a stop to it. The Supreme Court held in Brady v. Maryland that prosecutors have an “affirmative duty” to disclose all evidence that is favorable to the defense and material to guilt and/or punishment.

What is the weakest defense in a criminal case? ›

Lack Of Probable Cause: An arrest should be made only in instances when there is a strong likelihood or proof of guilt. A weak defense wouldn't recognize a lack of probable cause.

How much evidence is enough to convict someone? ›

Beyond a reasonable doubt.

Every state in the country has laws that make it clear a prosecutor must present enough evidence to show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the crime they are accused of.

What is insufficient evidence in a criminal case? ›

In a criminal case, a court will find insufficient evidence if the prosecutor cannot meet its burden of proof. Prior to trial, a defendant could move to dismiss the charges based on insufficient evidence.

Why you shouldn't take a plea bargain? ›

The plea deal could be used against you in future cases.

For example, if you are charged with assault and take a plea deal, that plea could be used against you if you are charged with assault again in the future. In case of a civil lawsuit, the plea could be used against you and there is no way to take it back.

What is a prosecutor's choice to drop charges after filing them called? ›

Dropping charges. After a prosecutor files a charge, the prosecutor can reduce the charge in exchange for a guilty plea or enter a nolle prosequi (nol. pros.). A nolle prosequi is a formal statement by a prosecutor declaring that a case is discontinued.

What is one reason that prosecutors engage in plea bargaining? ›

Reasons for Prosecutors to Accept a Plea Bargain

Like judges, prosecutors face overburdened schedules and limitations on their resources. Plea bargains are efficient and inexpensive, and they guarantee a favorable result instead of the uncertainty of going to trial.

What is it called when a prosecutor decides not to prosecute? ›

Nolle prosequi as a declaration can be made by a prosecutor in a criminal case either before or during trial, resulting in the prosecutor declining to further pursue the case against the defendant. Courts seldom challenge applications for nolle prosequi.

Why do prosecutors defense attorneys and defendants often agree to plea bargains? ›

Prosecutors generally consider plea bargains so that they are not required to release prisoners with more serious offenses (on parole) or to imprison defendants who aren't a violent threat to the community. Some states and prisons may now (or in the future) be subject to court orders to limit overcrowding.

What decision making power do prosecutors have? ›

What is a prosecutor? Prosecutors are the government officials charged with investigating and prosecuting crimes. Prosecutors have near-unlimited power to make all the most consequential decisions in a criminal case from beginning to end.

Why do judges like plea bargaining? ›

Judges also benefit from plea bargaining. The practice allows judges to preside over efficient trials, to minimize the risk of rulings being overturned on appeal, and to avoid the necessity of making rulings during trial.

What factors lead defendants to accept a plea bargain? ›

5 Reasons for a Defendant to Accept a Plea Bargain
  • Getting Out of Jail. If the accused is not granted or can't afford bail, they may have to wait in jail for weeks or months before their case even goes to trial. ...
  • Preserving Their Professional License. ...
  • Saving Money. ...
  • Reducing Social Stigma. ...
  • Reducing Stress.

What are the 3 types of plea bargains? ›

The U.S. Justice Department has developed four types of plea agreements that can be negotiated: charge agreements, recommendation agreements, specific sentence agreements, and fact-stipulation agreements.


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