How Can You Get Your Charges Dismissed?
The most desirable outcome for anyone charged with a crime is for the entire matter to be dropped entirely. Fortunately, it is certainly possible for a defendant's charges to be dropped or dismissed with the help of an Arizona criminal defense lawyer.
If your charges are dismissed, this often means criminal charges will be dismissed before the case against you even reaches the trial or plea stages. In other instances, defendants may have charged dismissed on a post-conviction appeal after a trial has already taken place.
No matter when charges are dismissed, however, there are common legal defenses that must be raised. Here are a few of the most common defenses that a Phoenix criminal defense lawyer may use that result in a dismissal of charges against you.
No Probable Cause Existed
It is a generally understood principle of law that a law enforcement officer must have probable cause to believe a crime was committed before placing someone under arrest. The legal principle of probable cause stipulates that the police officer must have held a reasonable belief based on objective facts and/or factual circumstances. Further, these objective facts must also lead a reasonable officer to conclude that the suspect in question:
- Is presently committing a crime
- Has already committed a crime
- Is about to engage in the act of committing a crime
The probable cause standard is an important legal defense to raise when there are legitimate questions regarding whether law enforcement arrested defendants without probable cause, which violates every defendant's Fourth Amendment rights in the U.S. Constitution.
Additionally, it is important to understand that the probable cause requirement typically applies to:
- Unlawful Arrests
- Unlawful Searches
- Unlawful Seizure of Property
Law Enforcement's Procedural Errors
When a criminal complaint or charging document is brought against a defendant, a law enforcement officer must attest to the truth of the complaint filed by signing under oath. If errors are made or significant truths are omitted from a charging document or criminal complaint, Arizona state or local laws may have been violated.
Similar legal requirements dictate the procedure that ought to be followed for nearly every phase of a criminal proceeding, including:
- The arrest itself (failing to give a defendant their Miranda rights)
- Bail hearing
Significant errors in these procedures can lead to a dismissal of the case entirely, reinforcing the need for a Phoenix criminal defense lawyer who understands the nuances of criminal procedure.
Unlawful Search and/or Seizure
If a driver breaks the law in Arizona or otherwise gives the police officer reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle. If, however, this standard is not met or the stop is discriminatory for any reason, then the driver's legal rights will have been violated. Similarly, if evidence was seized unlawfully without probable cause, your legal rights were violated.
The Fourth Amendment, therefore, serves to ensure that any arrest made based upon an unlawful search or seizure, no evidence gathered may be used against you in a court of law. As a result, your defense lawyer will cite the lack of evidence against you as the reason to dismiss all charges through a formal motion.
Lack of Evidence
If you have been arrested, prosecutors will look to see whether there is enough evidence to even bring a case to trial. When this evidence is insufficient, your criminal defense lawyer can intercede on your behalf and argue that no formal charges should be brought against you.
Even if a prosecutor chooses to move forward with the case, your attorney can then file a motion to dismiss the case for a lack of evidence. Many criminal cases have been dropped for this very reason with the help of a criminal defense attorney.
Other Defenses to Get Charges Dismissed
Other less common defenses that can lead to a dismissal depending on the facts of a case include:
- The prosecutor agrees to dismiss a charge based on some additional circumstances, such as a defendant's previously clean record (this typically only happens when the charges are relatively minor)
- Key evidence was lost that renders the prosecution unable to prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt
- An essential witness whose testimony is necessary to prevent strong evidence against the defendant is unavailable or unwilling to testify
If you have any additional questions about the dismissal of criminal charges in Arizona, contact us to discuss your case with a Phoenix criminal defense lawyer.