Why & How Criminal Cases Get Dismissed

The dismissal of a criminal case is the ideal outcome for anyone facing charges. It immediately ends the possibility of a stressful trial. It can also leave the option of a future expungement on the table.

Like any strong defense, however, dismissals don’t come out of thin air. And prosecutors won’t automatically dismiss criminal charges and cases without:

  • Sufficient doubt about their chances of securing a conviction at trial
  • Subjective and objective reasons that make a dismissal stand out as serving the best interests of justice

That’s where an experienced criminal defense attorney comes in. A skilled lawyer can identify and pursue the best strategies for convincing prosecutors to dismiss a case.

How Criminal Cases Get Dismissed

The details and evidence of a case will dictate whether a dismissal may be possible and, if so, the best ways of seeking it. No matter what specific tactics a criminal defense attorney uses to this end, they’re all focused on:

  1. Establishing character: The goal here is to prove that the accused individual is a good person, someone who maybe was in the wrong place at the wrong time or made an error in judgment but who is not a danger to society. Messages from loved ones, professional acknowledgments, and medical records can all be helpful. So too can anything that shows circumstances, challenges, values, and plans for the future.
  2. Pointing out the weaknesses of the prosecution’s case: Prosecutors have to be strategic about the cases they bring to trial, and the latest data shows that no more than 2% of criminal cases (state and federal) ever make it to trial. While many end in plea deals, prosecutors can be persuaded to dismiss cases when they have minimal or zero chances of a win. This is where specifics of the case come in.

Here are just some of the ways a defense lawyer can highlight problems with prosecutors’ cases and position the defense for better outcomes, like dismissals.

Procedural Violations

Any prosecution case does not start when the police report is passed off to the prosecutor. It starts when police enter the picture. That’s because police must follow specific procedures to gather evidence, investigate alleged crimes, make arrests, preserve evidence, and more.

These procedures are in place to protect the rights of the accused. They also are meant to preserve the integrity of the investigation, the authenticity (or purity) of the evidence collected, and, consequently, the prosecutor’s case.

When procedural violations occur at any point during the investigation, arrest, or handling of evidence:

  • All of the evidence collected as part of the violation(s) can be thrown out.
  • Prosecutors may have insufficient evidence to support the charges in a case.

Some examples of procedural violations can include failing to Mirandize someone placed under arrest and conducting searches to collect evidence outside of the scope of a search warrant (illegal search and seizure).

Conflicting Evidence

The evidence in criminal cases always doesn’t line up to support one crystal clear conclusion. Sometimes, murky evidence opens itself up to various interpretations. Other times, one piece of evidence can directly contradict another.

Witness statements can fall into this category. So can expert testimony, forensic evidence, and more. Highlighting the defense evidence that waters down, conflicts with, or totally disarms the prosecutor’s evidence is another effective way to show weaknesses in their cases.

Tainted Evidence

Evidence can be tainted at the scene, as it’s collected, or at any point while it’s transported, analyzed, or preserved for trial. This can include evidence that is tainted by the:

  • Public: For example, if police fail to promptly or properly secure a crime scene, the public may have access to it, potentially contaminating evidence.
  • Police: If police fail to follow evidentiary procedures at any point, their mishandling of the evidence can be enough to raise questions about the reliability of that evidence.
  • Lab technicians: Sample cross-contamination or failing to keep forensic samples stored properly are just a few ways evidence can be tainted at labs.

A good defense lawyer can review all of the details—from the police report to laboratory chains of custody—to determine when tainted evidence may be an issue in a criminal case. When it is, the attorney can point out weaknesses in the prosecution’s case to further unravel it.

Holes in the Prosecutor’s Arguments or Case

To win, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused individual committed the crime(s) in question. That means the burden of proof lies with the prosecutor and that the defense only needs to create enough reasonable doubt in jurors’ minds to challenge the arguments for conviction.

A skilled criminal defense lawyer may use this strategy in various ways, including by showing that:

  • The evidence is insufficient: Simply put, this means there is not enough evidence to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime. A missing weapon in a murder case or little to no physical evidence at a crime scene may show that a prosecutor doesn’t have enough evidence to support the charges or a conviction.
  • The evidence is circumstantial: This type of evidence needs to be supported or verified by other evidence because it is not definitive alone. Witness statements are an example, especially if there are issues with the witness’ credibility or the consistency of his or her statements.
  • Other individuals could have committed the crime: This involves establishing that anyone else had the opportunity, motive, and means to commit the offense at the heart of the case.

The more holes a defense lawyer can find and poke in the prosecution’s case, the better. It can prevent their case from holding any water, making a dismissal or a more favorable plea deal far more likely.

Why Criminal Cases Get Dismissed

Ultimately, the dismissal of any criminal case can rest in the hands of a prosecutor. This means that prosecutors will have to make a judgment call and use their prosecutorial discretion when deciding which cases to dismiss, plea out, or try in court.

To make that call, prosecutors need to come to the independent conclusion that dismissing the case is the best option because:

  • The defendant is highly unlikely to commit other or worse crimes in the future: The last thing a prosecutor wants to do is dismiss a case, only to see the same defendant commit similar or worse crimes in the future. When a defense attorney can make the case that the accused has a good character and there’s no reason to believe that (s)he’s a threat to the public, prosecutors can be more inclined to dismiss a case.
  • Dismissing the case serves the interests of justice: Trials are expensive, and we taxpayers foot the bill. If the prosecutor sees very little chances of winning a weak case at trial, it can be much harder to justify the costs, as well as the time it takes to try a case. This is especially true in light of prosecutors’ massive caseloads.
  • The prosecutor’s reputation will not be damaged by dismissing the case: Convictions rates and reputation matter a lot for prosecutors. In fact, these attorneys need to be seen as tough in court. And if they use their discretion to not bring a case to trial, there needs to be solid, objective reasons for doing so.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can present the facts and most persuasive arguments for dismissals. And that can be the key to bringing prosecutors to the independent conclusion that dismissing the case is a good choice.

Get More Answers About Dismissals & Criminal Defense Strategies: Contact Anaya-McKedy, P.C.

If you or a loved one has been accused of a misdemeanor or felony crime in Colorado, the sooner you contact Anaya-McKedy, P.C., the better. Our Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyers are exceptionally skilled at protecting the rights of the accused and helping them build the strongest possible defense cases.

Backed by more than 30 years of criminal trial experience, our attorneys are former prosecutors who know the tactics and arguments the prosecution will use to try to secure a conviction. This empowers us with the insight to anticipate and undercut the prosecution’s strategies while structuring your defense accordingly.

Find out if your case may be eligible for dismissal and what your best defense moves are by contacting us today.

Call (719) 259-5082 or Email Us for a Free, Confidential Consultation

We are available 24/7 to answer your questions, help you understand the process, and put you at ease. We can meet you and/or a loved one at our Colorado Springs office or jail. We can also discuss your case over the phone.

No matter how serious criminal charges may be, we understand the allegations filed against you are the most important thing in your life. That’s why we will treat your case as a matter of the utmost importance—and why we will work relentlessly to help you achieve the best resolution possible.

Our extensive experience and record of success have earned Anaya-McKedy, P.C. numerous professional honors and awards, positive reviews from former clients, and the respect of colleagues, local judges, and prosecutors.

About Eric Anaya

Criminal Defense Attorney Eric S. Anya Eric Anaya has been practicing criminal law for over a decade. While attending law school, Eric was appointed to the University of New Mexico’s Board of Regents by the Governor of New Mexico. Eric decided to move to Colorado to accept a position in the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office. He prosecuted hundreds of cases in County Court, but quickly was promoted to prosecute felonies. Eric made the conscious decision to change his practice and his life to defending those wrongly accused. Eric has successfully handled hundreds of cases.

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