There are three ways a criminal case can be resolved. The case can be resolved by a negotiated plea settlement, it can be resolved by a trial, or it can be dismissed. The best possible outcome is to have the case dismissed; to get the prosecutor to simply give up on the case. It is even favorable to being acquitted at trial because with a dismissal, there is not the risk inherent with trial. The case is purely done. It is over and gone.
A dismissal’s desirability is generally known even outside of the legal professional community. Often, we hear at our consultations, “my case should be dismissed!” Dismissed is a buzz word.
However, what does “dismissed” actually mean in the scheme of a criminal proceeding? It means a prosecutor has decided that it is in the interest of justice for the case not to be prosecuted.
The most common reason a case is dismissed in the interest of justice is when a prosecutor determines he or she does not have the evidence necessary to prove the case. An essential witness may be unavailable, a witness may have changed his story at the last moment ruining the credibility of the evidence or the evidence was never there from the start. For whatever reason, the case cannot be proved.
This sounds simple. However, prosecutors are busy. Some county court prosecutors have over 300 open cases at any given time. This is a good thing for the defense, but it does cause some issues when attempting to get a case dismissed. Like most people, prosecutors deal first and foremost with what needs to be done now, not so much what needs to be done next month or six months from now. This means that if your charges were just filed or you haven’t even set your case for trial yet, the prosecutor probably hasn’t significantly studied your case. Yes, they know the general facts as reported in a warrant or probable cause statement, but they do not know the case well enough to determine it should be dismissed in the interest of justice. This is the nature of most prosecutions and a defense attorney’s well crafted arguments, while vital, can only do so much to speed things along.
Cases that are dismissed are usually dismissed right before trial because that is when a prosecutor is really studying the case. As a result, it can take several months and many court appearances before a case is ultimately dismissed. We at Steven Louth Law Offices know being charged with a criminal offense is stressful and sometimes it can even be all-consuming. The person cannot work, cannot eat, and cannot sleep without thinking about his or her charges. It is not surprising that most people are anxious to have their cases resolved quickly. We do everything we can to provide good outcomes for our clients as quickly as possible, but sometimes, achieving the best outcome takes patience.