Nobody ever plans to get arrested. In fact, you might have thought that facing criminal charges is the last thing that would ever happen to you, especially if you haven’t committed a crime.
But if you’ve recently found yourself in the back of a police car or being booked at the station, you are not alone.
The truth is, there are many circumstances that could lead a person to be arrested and charged with a crime. Whether you were falsely accused, in the wrong place at the wrong time, coerced into confessing to a crime you didn’t commit, or made a mistake that you never plan to make again, you could still be facing the possibility of jail time, fines, and a criminal record that follows you for life. While facing criminal charges can be extremely daunting, the good news is that it’s possible to avoid a trial, penalties, and a criminal record by having your charges dropped before your court date.
Of course, every case is different, but by acting quickly and seeking the help of a savvy criminal defense attorney, you might be able to put an end to this terrible situation.
- Why should you try to get your charges dropped before your court date?
- Reasons a prosecutor might dismiss your case before your court date
- How to get charges dropped before your court date in California
- Legal approaches to getting your case dismissed based on your specific charges
- Work with a California criminal attorney to get your charges dropped
Why should you try to get your charges dropped before your court date?
Getting your charges dropped before your court date can save you money on legal fees or fines, keep you from acquiring or adding to a criminal record, prevent you from spending time in jail, and save your reputation.
Of the benefits to having your charges dropped before your court date, not acquiring a criminal record may be the most significant. A felony record, and sometimes even a misdemeanor, can have a negative impact on your personal and professional life in a lot of ways. Some of the common things that people with a criminal record might experience are:
- Loss of employment and/or difficulty securing employment
- Difficulty obtaining professional licenses or security clearances, or losing existing ones
- Difficulty obtaining grants, scholarships, or loans
- The inability to own a firearm
Having your charges dropped before you are due to appear in court and keeping your record clean is the best way to avoid the negative consequences.
Reasons a prosecutor might dismiss your case before your court date
There are several reasons why a prosecutor might decide to drop your charges before your court date. Depending on the circumstances of the case, those reasons might include:
- Insufficient evidence – the prosecutor needs to show that there is enough evidence against you in order to move forward with the case. If the evidence is insufficient or was illegally obtained, they will have to drop the charges. Your defense attorney can help to ensure that charges aren’t filed against you in spite of insufficient evidence.
- No witnesses – in some cases, not having a witness who was present at the scene of the alleged crime can be considered insufficient evidence.
- Faulty arrest – if law enforcement officers failed to follow any of the specific procedures that they are legally required to follow during arrests, interrogations, or bail hearings, then you can have your charges dropped. Some examples of an unlawful arrest include being coerced to confess to a crime you didn’t commit, having illegal items or substances planted on you, or having your person or property illegally searched.
- Your rights were violated – all US citizens are protected under the United States Constitution. If any of your constitutional rights were violated by law enforcement or other officials, your charges may be dropped prior to your court date. For example, illegal search and seizure is a violation of the 4th amendment, therefore any evidence obtained illegally is not admissible in court.
- Other reasons – while the above reasons are some of the most common, there are many other possible circumstances that could result in your charges being dropped. Those could include errors made by the prosecutor, the discovery of new evidence in your favor, your cooperation in other criminal cases or lack of cooperation on the part of the victim.
Whether or not you are aware of circumstances in your case that could lead to your charges being dropped, it is crucial that you work with a criminal defense attorney who understands the various grounds for dismissal and legal loopholes. Your attorney may be able to find grounds, loopholes, or evidence in your favor that only an experienced legal professional can. Your attorney will also know how to navigate the legal system and represent you and your case in the way that gets you the most favorable outcome.
How to get charges dropped before your court date in California
If you or someone you love is arrested and charged with a crime, it is important that you contact an attorney as soon as possible. Many people assume that, once they have been arrested and charged, their case will inevitably go to trial. However, there are many reasons why a person’s charges might be dropped or reduced prior to going to trial. Before you’re due to appear in court, your attorney will collect and examine all of the available information about your case, including evidence and police files. They can also help find new witnesses and evidence that is favorable to you. Your attorney will then bring all of this information to the prosecutor in order to convince them that your case should be dropped before going to trial.
Keep in mind that, if your case does go to trial, the charges will remain on your record permanently. As soon you are released on bail, it’s important not to waste any time in contacting an attorney.
If the circumstances of your arrest were legal on the part of law enforcement officials (your rights weren’t violated, you weren’t illegally searched, etc.), there are three general methods that your attorney might use to have your charges dropped before going to court. Which one they use will depend on the facts of your case. Those methods are:
1. Provide evidence that proves you didn’t commit the offense
In order to be charged with a crime, the prosecutor needs to provide sufficient evidence against you. If, however, you can provide “exculpatory” evidence (evidence that proves your innocence) then the prosecutor will have to drop your charges. Your attorney will know where to look for evidence or witnesses and how to most convincingly present the evidence to the prosecutor. That’s why it’s important to contact a lawyer as soon as you become aware that you have been charged with a crime. The more time that you and your attorney have to establish your alibi and find exculpatory evidence, the better your odds of getting your charged dropped without going to trial.
2. Apply to a California pretrial diversion program
California pretrial diversion programs allow eligible defendants to avoid going to trial or serving any time in jail by completing certain treatment and education classes instead. Once the defendant completes the required classes, their case is then sealed and destroyed and there is no criminal record of the charges. There are three main types of diversion programs:
- Mental health diversion – Penal Code 100.36 PC
- Drug diversion – Penal Code 1000 PC
- Military diversion – Penal Code 1001.81 PC
While it can be challenging to qualify for pretrial diversion, the benefits make it worth applying for. Defendants who may be eligible for a pretrial diversion program:
- Have been charged with a non-violent drug crime, or
- Have been diagnosed with a significant mental health disorder, or
- suffer from a trauma, substance abuse, or mental health-related condition as a result of military service
Your attorney can help determine whether you are a candidate for a pretrial diversion program and assist you in completing the necessary paperwork.
3. Cooperate on another case
Law enforcement officials prioritize certain cases based on factors like the nature or severity of the crime, suspected danger to the public, and whether criminal enterprises are involved. Authorities are sometimes willing to negotiate with a defendant in a smaller case if it helps them to solve or prosecute a larger one. While uncommon, it is possible to get your charges dropped by cooperating with law enforcement on another case, which may include:
- Testifying in another case
- Cooperating on a case that is bigger than yours
- Providing evidence against other defendants in your own case
If it’s cooperating on another case is a possibility for you, your attorney will negotiate on your behalf and work to ensure that you are provided with appropriate protection for your participation.
Legal approaches to getting your case dismissed based on your specific charges
Whether and how you are able to get your charges dropped before your court date will depend on what you’ve been charged with and the circumstances of your case. Below are three common charges and some legal approaches that could be used to have them dismissed.
According to California Penal Code 484, theft is the use of fraud or deception to take the property, money, or labor owned by another person without their express permission. The seriousness of a theft charge depends on the property that was stolen, but in many cases the consequences for a conviction are steep. If you can present evidence of any of the following circumstances, you may be able to have your charges dropped.
- Lack of knowledge or intent – in order to be guilty of theft, you need to have taken possession of the property knowingly and intentionally. If you were not aware you were in possession of stolen property or did not intend to take possession of the property, your charges may be dropped.
- You are the owner of the property – if you are actually the rightful owner of the property in question, providing evidence of your ownership would prevent your case form going to trial.
- You committed the crime under duress – if you were forced to commit theft under threat of harm or violence, the prosecutor will be required to drop your charges.
Domestic violence cases are often complex. Complicated family dynamics and heightened emotions can lead to circumstances that are not cut and dry or easy for law enforcement or judicial officials to understand right away. While California takes charges of domestic violence very seriously, it is sometimes possible to have domestic violence charges dropped if there is exculpatory evidence to show that you are not guilty of the alleged crime. Other reasons why domestic violence charges might be dropped are:
- Victim’s statements or testimony is deemed unreasonable or inconsistent
- Lack of visible injuries
- Alleged victim has motives against the defendant
- Victim has a history of mental illness or drug or alcohol abuse
- Victim fails to testify or cooperate
- Corroborating evidence is insufficient or was illegally obtained
- Victim no longer wishes to proceed with the case
It is not uncommon for reckless driving charges to end up being dropped before going to court. Below are three of the most common strategies that a criminal defense attorney will use or recommend.
- Provide witnesses – if you can find witnesses who are willing to testify on your behalf, it may provide enough evidence of your innocence to have the case dismissed.
- Take additional driving classes – taking additional driving or driving improvement classes will show the court that you are actively taking the initiative in preventing any future misconduct on your behalf. If your case does end up going to trial, having taken additional driving classes could still result in reduced penalties.
- Have the vehicle examined – if you were speeding as a result of a broken or faulty speedometer or other technical problem with your vehicle, you may be able to prove that you did not act with knowledge or intent.
Work with a California criminal attorney to get your charges dropped
An experienced and professional criminal defense attorney knows how to find evidence that will work in your favor, come up with the best strategy for you to have your charges dropped, and negotiate with the prosecutor to keep you out of the courtroom. Robert M. Helfend is a well-respected California criminal defense lawyer with a reputation for tirelessly defending his clients’ rights and fighting to keep their records clean. Whatever charges you are facing, Mr. Helfend and his team can find you the best possible outcome. Call today for a free consultation to discuss your options – 800-834-6434.