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Dismissing a Case in California

When faced with a criminal case, defendants usually have to go to court to defend themselves so that the charge can be reduced, or better yet, completely dismissed. However, in a lot of cases, dismissals may occur pretrial and defendants don’t even have to defend themselves in court.

Many cases can be dismissed even before a trial or a plea due to several different reasons, including:

  • Insufficient evidence to prove the crime,
  • Loss of necessary evidence to prove the crime,
  • Unavailability of a necessary witness to testify against the defendant,
  • Lack of probable cause,
  • An illegal stop or search,
  • An improper criminal complaint or charging document,
  • Prosecutors’ discretion.

If you are facing criminal charges and have any questions on how to file a motion to dismiss a case, criminal defenses, and the rules of civil procedure, don’t hesitate to get yourself a criminal defense lawyer who can guide you. A good criminal lawyer should be familiar with the local rules and statutes to help you build the best defense for you to have your lawsuit dismissed by the court.

Insufficient Evidence to Prove the Crime

In criminal cases, the prosecution is responsible for gathering evidence and presenting this evidence to the judge or the grand jury in order to establish probable cause which will determine that you have committed a crime. The evidence must be able to establish factual and objective bases to believe that you are guilty of the crime you are accused of.

If the prosecution does not have enough evidence, however, then the charges must be dropped. So early on, before the trial, if the prosecution already thinks that there is not enough evidence to make a case against you, your charges may be voluntarily dismissed, even before going to court.

Loss of Necessary Evidence to Prove the Crime

In many cases, physical evidence is very important for plaintiffs to prove that they committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Some of this physical evidence can be so incriminating, such as in the case of CCTV footage showing you actively committing the crime, that you can be sure that the court will find you guilty.

Dismissing a case would be very hard in this scenario, but you could also be very lucky if the prosecution somehow loses the evidence. It does happen, albeit in very rare cases, that the prosecution misplaces key physical evidence, and without this evidence, you might as well be free to go.

Unavailability of a Necessary Witness to Testify Against the Defendant

Alternatively, the prosecution might also lose a key witness such as in the case of death or if he suddenly goes missing. A witness may also withdraw his consent to testify to protect his Fifth Amendment rights in case he feels that he might also be charged with a crime if he testifies.

Your criminal defense attorney may also question how the police conducted the witness’ identification of the defendant or some other related issues, thus nullifying the witness’ testimony.

In some cases, a witness statement is a key to proving a crime, and without it, the evidence may not be strong enough to prove that you committed a crime.

Lack of Probable Cause

Police officers are given the authority to arrest people, but only when there is probable cause. An example may be in the form of a civilian reporting to the police that a robbery took place and that the robber was wearing certain clothes. If the police can find someone that matches the description, then there is probable cause to arrest and detain that person.

If it can be proven that you were arrested based on a whim or gut feel and that there is no probable cause for your arrest, the charges against you may be dismissed. However, if the prosecution can acquire evidence that supports the idea of you committing a crime, the plea to dismiss may be overturned or the prosecution may re-file the case if it was already closed.

An Illegal Stop or Search

Similar to requiring probable cause to detain you, law enforcement must have a valid reason for stopping or searching your house.

A police officer can only stop you if you are speeding, driving recklessly, violating some other traffic rules, or if he has enough reason to believe that a crime is taking place. He cannot stop you for things like your gender or race.

Police officers can also only search your car or your house if they have a valid warrant or under certain circumstances. For example, a police officer can stop and search your car if you are suspected of carrying deadly weapons or were found to be driving under the influence. Police officers can also search your house if gunshots were heard from your house.

In the absence of a warrant or valid reasons like these, a police officer stopping you and/or searching you is done illegally, and by the law, any evidence acquired with illegal means must be dismissed. Such may help have your case dismissed, especially if any key evidence is struck out.

An Improper Criminal Complaint or Charging Document

Whenever you’re arrested and being pressed with a charge, a criminal complaint or charging document must be filled out by the law enforcement officer responsible. These forms contain the essential facts about the alleged crime and are written and signed under oath, attesting to the veracity of the enclosed statements.

The procedures that must be observed when making these forms are dictated by state and local law, and if there are contents in the forms that must be corrected, such as in the case of significant errors or omission, these cannot simply be corrected by the prosecutor and must be corrected by the law enforcement officer who wrote it.

If the officer is unavailable to make these corrections- he might have left his job, retired, or simply nowhere to be found- the cases against you may just have to be dropped.

Prosecutors’ Discretion

In some cases, a prosecutor might agree to have a voluntary dismissal of the case if there are extenuating factors involved- factors that lessen the seriousness of a crime such as if the charge is only a misdemeanor and the defendant has a clean record.

In such cases, a plaintiff may have your charges dismissed without prejudice which means the prosecutor may re-file your charges later especially if you get arrested again.

The prosecutor is allowed to choose whether to continue pressing charges or dismissing charges as opposed to the victim, because in criminal cases, it is not a case of victim vs. defendant, rather it is the defendant vs. the state. The prosecutor may also decide based on what he thinks constitutes justice in that scenario.

In some cases, it might be better to drop charges because pressing charges would entail the victim being further involved in the case which may end up causing more harm than justice.

These are the reasons for which criminal charges may be dismissed before the trial or plea, but in a lot of cases, the trial has already pushed through and the defendant has already been found guilty. This isn’t too late, however, because cases can still be dismissed through appeals.

Grounds for Dismissing a Case After a Successful Appeal

No Jurisdiction

Courts are only allowed to hear cases that are within their jurisdiction, so in cases where a court has overstepped, the case may be overturned and the court may dismiss the claim. However, this does not stop the authorized court to take up the case.

Of course, to be able to use this reason to have a case dismissed, a defendant must be able to understand the relationships between the different courts including the district court, federal court, court of appeals, small claims court, the trial court, and so on. As such, you should get yourself a criminal defense attorney at the Chastaine Jones Criminal Defense Attorneys, a Gold River, California criminal defense law firm, where you can get help from a lawyer with extensive knowledge of the criminal law system.

Insufficient Supporting Evidence

A case may be reopened and the judge will be asked to make a judgment of acquittal. If denied, the defendant may appeal and occasionally win if the appellate court finds that there was insufficient evidence to prove the crime this time around, and in such a case, the court may dismiss the case.

Bad Arrest or Search

The evidence that convicts you of a crime may at some point be dismissed such as in the case of the unconstitutional acquisition of this evidence. If the appellate court finds that the remaining evidence is insufficient to pin you to the crime, your charge may be dismissed.

Going through a criminal case is hard, especially with all the legal terms that are flying around. So if you are facing a court case, don’t hesitate to talk to one of our Gold River, California criminal defense lawyers. Our lawyers are knowledgeable of the California Penal code and will help you understand how to go about the dismissal of a lawsuit.

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