Charges Dismissed vs. Dropped: What’s the Difference?
When you’re charged with a crime, you can only hope that it will all just go away. The truth is there’s an actual possibility this could happen before ever going to trial. You’re thinking the only way to get things back to normal and move forward is if your felony charges are dropped or dismissed, and while this is true, you may not realize the different legal meanings the two words have. So what’s the difference between charges dismissed vs. dropped?
Meaning of Charges Dropped
When criminal charges are filed by a prosecutor, it’s because they believe they can prove their case. That doesn’t necessarily mean a judge or jury will agree with them, but they feel confident that their evidence is strong enough to convince others of their argument. If at any point throughout the process, even before the charges have been officially filed, the prosecutor or arresting officer feels their case is not strong enough to hold up in court, they are able to drop the charges all together. But only the prosecuting party is able to do so.
Other reasons felony charges may be dropped:
- The victim around who the case was built decides not to cooperate
- The attorney of the prosecuting party is responsible for multiple cases at the time, causing them to allocate their time and resources to other cases of high priority.
- The defendant is willing to cooperate with prosecutors to help resolve other crimes or in another situation that enables the attorney to work out a deal or get the charge dropped altogether
Meaning of Charges Dismissed
In a criminal case, the defendant is assumed innocent until proven guilty. This means that the prosecutors must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant in fact committed the crime. By choosing to move for dismissal, the defendant is arguing that the accusing party does not have enough evidence to meet this standard for the jury to find him guilty. The motion is then taken into the judge’s hands, and if he agrees, the case will be dismissed.
A case can also be dismissed if the prosecutor has made a fundamental or procedural legal error during the time of the arrest, booking, interrogating, etc. by the prosecuting party or the evidence was obtained unlawfully in any way. In either case, charges can only be dismissed by the court and only after charges have been filed. Working with a skilled defense attorney is your best chance to ensure the protection of your rights and get your case dismissed.
What about Reducing a Charge?
It’s also possible to have a charge reduced. This is typically an option if there’s not enough evidence to support the initial charge, but enough to convict the defendant of a lesser charge.
In this case, the prosecutor will agree to dismiss the original charge with the offer of a “plea bargain agreement,” which requires the defendant to plead guilty or no contest to the lesser charge.
If you’ve been charged with a crime, you’ll want a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney working to protect your rights and fight for the best outcome possible. With a number of reasons for cases to be dropped or dismissed, make sure you have the best team on your side to defend your freedom and reputation, so you can move on with your life.
For more information on how to get a case dropped or how to get a case dismissed, contact us to discuss your specific legal situation today.