If you are facing criminal charges in California, you may want to get the charges against you “dropped” or “dismissed.” These phrases are commonly used interchangeably, but they, legally, mean different things – and your case’s outcome could be completely different based on when and how the case is dropped or dismissed. The Ventura criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth discuss the differences between having a case dropped or dismissed and which you should prefer. If you are facing criminal charges, contact our law offices today to schedule a free consultation with our attorneys.
“Dropped,” “Dismissed,” “Acquitted,” and Other Case Outcomes Explained
When you go to trial, you may understand the possible pleas and jury verdicts. Most people understand that they enter a plea as part of their case by standing up and “pleading guilty” by admitting their guilt or “pleading not guilty” by denying they committed the crime. Later, a jury makes a similar decision and may find you “guilty” or “not guilty.” However, there are multiple possible outcomes that can come at different points in your case.
Our goal as criminal defense lawyers is to reduce the number of charges you face, beat any charges against you, and reduce the penalties for any charges that cannot be beaten. This means the first goal in your case is to get charges dropped and dismissed rather than taking the case to trial before a jury, if possible.
When a case is “dropped,” it means that the prosecutor has decided to cancel the charges against you. When a DA or prosecutor drops charges, the charges are stricken from the case. A prosecutor can drop some or all charges against you.
Prosecutors usually drop charges because they realize the charge does not fit the facts of the crime or they do not have enough evidence to win the case. This can happen in assault charges where they realize it was a case of self-defense or in DUI charges where bloodwork shows there was no alcohol in the driver’s system. Prosecutors may also drop charges as part of a plea agreement, where you agree to plead guilty to some charges in exchange for getting more serious charges dropped.
When a case is “dismissed,” it means that the judge found legal errors with the charge and, as a matter of law, must stop the charges against you. Charges are frequently dismissed because a judge does not find probable cause to charge you with the crime in the first place or because, even if the claims against you were true, the actions would not fit the legal definition of the crime.
If the case cannot be dropped or dismissed in its early stages, it may go to trial. At trial, the jury can find you “not guilty,” which means beating the charges. This does not mean that the jury found you “innocent”; it just means that there wasn’t enough evidence to find you guilty. When a jury votes “not guilty,” you are said to be “acquitted” of the charges., but an acquittal can occur in other ways as well
Are Dropped or Dismissed Cases Permanent in California?
After charges are dropped or dismissed, the prosecutor may be able to refile the charges, especially in the early stages of the case. If a judge dismisses charges because they lack probable cause or a prosecutor drops charges because they do not have enough evidence, police may investigate the case further and refile charges after getting more evidence.
In many cases, it is impossible for police and prosecutors to refile the charges against you without violating the Double Jeopardy Clause. The U.S. Constitution prevents you from being in “double jeopardy” of facing the same charges twice. This protection attaches to your case when the jury is empaneled and sworn in. At that point, the case is locked in, and they cannot charge you with the same charges again, no matter what happens at trial.
That means that after a jury is empaneled and sworn in, any dismissal, dropped charges, or not guilty verdict are permanent, and you have beaten the charges. If the prosecution loses the case and you are acquitted, they cannot charge you again for the same events. Similarly, if the judge dismisses the case or the prosecutor drops charges midway through the trial, they cannot refile the same charges.
This situation is different from, a “mistrial,” which can mean facing a second trial for your case. If there is a legal problem with the case, such as a tainted jury or evidence violations, the case may be declared a mistrial and the trial will start again. This can repeat until the judge gets a guilty verdict or an acquittal from a fair trial.
If a prosecutor drops charges as part of an agreement, they cannot refile those charges. Many plea deals involve dropping some charges in exchange for cooperation, a guilty plea to other charges, or help with another case. These are binding contracts, and once charges are dropped as part of a plea deal, the government cannot charge you again.
California Defense Attorney Offering Free Consultations
If you or a loved one was charged with a crime in Ventura or the surrounding areas, our attorneys may be able to help. To schedule a free consultation on your charges, contact the criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today at (805) 643-5555.