Speaking of the prosecution, however, you must remember that only the prosecutor files charges and thus has the authority to dismiss the case. The judge lacks the authority to do so except under very limited circumstances.
Here is a deeper dive into getting criminal charges dismissed, including when a prosecutor can dismiss a case and why the prosecution dismisses charges in Texas.
The Typical Resolution of Criminal Cases
The criminal justice system resolves cases through any of the following:
- Plea agreement
Case dismissal is not the same as getting the charges dropped. The prosecution can drop charges anytime during prosecution, including before charges are filed against the defendant. For example, the prosecution may dismiss charges due to insufficient evidence.
Again, only the prosecution and, rarely, a judge can dismiss criminal charges. Texas law allows the prosecution to continue even if the victim drops the charges.
When Can the Prosecution Dismiss a Case?
The prosecution can dismiss a case if there is a factual or a legal problem with the case.
Factual problems include weak or insufficient evidence. For example, in a DWI case, the state may have several pieces of evidence, including a blood alcohol test result, an offense report, or a video of you during a field sobriety test.
Maybe the blood alcohol result is right at the legal limit, introducing the possibility that you were below the limit while driving. Or perhaps you pass your field sobriety test, and the officer states that you appear sober.
Legal problems include the lack of a valid reason for stopping and detaining a person or violating your Miranda rights.
To use an illegal traffic stop as an example, state and federal laws require an officer to have a valid legal reason for stopping you. You must be speeding, driving a vehicle with an expired registration, or committing an unsafe lane change. You cannot be stopped because you “look like trouble.” The judge would suppress the prosecution’s evidence because it was obtained in violation of the law.
Another example is if you are charged with theft, but the prosecution requires a confession for evidence because the officers cannot find anything else. Suppose the police obtain your confession in violation of your Miranda rights. In that case, the judge will suppress the confession, and the case is dismissed due to the lack of evidence.
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Reasons for Dismissing Criminal Charges in Texas
Texas has a long list of possible reasons for dismissing criminal charges:
- Lack of cooperation from the alleged victim or the victim recants
- Lack of evidence
- Expiration of the statute of limitations
- Violation of the defendant’s right to a speedy trial
- Insufficient resources due to a crowded criminal docket or witness unavailability
- Double jeopardy violations
A prosecutor may dismiss charges due to Fourth Amendment violations. The Fourth Amendment protects you against illegal searches and seizures. Any evidence obtained by police in this manner is inadmissible in court and will be suppressed.
Procedural errors or prosecutorial misconduct (a favorite trope on television shows) can result in the dismissal of charges. If law enforcement or the prosecutor’s office commits errors during the arrest, interrogation, bail hearing, or other pretrial phases can lead to dismissal.
The law requires criminal complaints and charging documents to be signed under oath. State law has specific requirements for the type of information the complaint or charges must contain.
Very rarely, the prosecution will dismiss charges at its discretion. There may be extenuating circumstances that show a case for leniency. Perhaps the defendant has never been arrested or convicted of crimes previously.
The prosecutor may elect to dismiss charges “without prejudice,” leaving the door open for refiling charges later. If the court dismisses charges “with prejudice,” the case is over, period. The court cannot refile those charges later.
Getting Criminal Charges Dismissed
The criminal justice system has several ways to dismiss charges.
Through Your Attorney
An attorney can:
- Find weaknesses in the prosecution’s case
- Determine legal reasons for dismissal
- Obtain a truthful statement from the alleged victim
Other Methods of Dismissal
The court may dismiss charges if the defendant agrees to participate in a pretrial diversion program. Most programs target misdemeanor offenses, but a few might be offered in felony cases, depending on circumstances.
An informed dismissal is made in exchange for completing a class, community service hours, or donations to charity. However, this method is only used in very minor cases.
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The prosecution or judge can dismiss criminal charges at any time. Still, criminal cases typically take several months for dismissal in most counties because the prosecutor’s office carries a heavy caseload.
Dismissals resulting from pretrial diversion programs can take as little as 30 days or up to a year.
The Effects of a Dismissal
If the court dismisses your criminal charges, you are no longer under the court’s authority. However, the arrest still appears on your record, even if the court never files charges.
On the other hand, dismissal provides eligibility for expunction. If you are pardoned, acquitted at trial, or not convicted or placed on community supervision, you can erase the arrest from your criminal history, wiping the slate clean.
Whenever possible, you and your attorney should aim to dismiss your criminal charges because conviction is a permanent blot on your record. Once convicted, you can face difficulties finding employment, housing, or financial aid.
Hire an Attorney to Help
An attorney can help you discover reasons for having your criminal charges dismissed through an investigation into the circumstances of your arrest or by challenging the victim’s statement. Perhaps you were acting in self-defense because the victim attacked you, showing you are not at fault. Maybe there was no fight, only a misunderstanding.
An attorney can subpoena your medical records in a domestic violence case, showing that your accuser was intoxicated and made the complaint out of retaliation. Your lawyer might obtain videos from jail showing a violation of protocol that acts to suppress breathalyzer evidence.
However, no attorney should guarantee that your charges can be dismissed. Your lawyer cannot control the facts but can make dismissal more likely through their expert knowledge of Texas law.
Contact the Law Office of Brett Podolsky to receive ethical, experienced guidance throughout your legal issues.