If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, you know that the “best-case scenario” is for the charges to be dismissed before the case goes to trial. Our criminal defense attorneys in Raleigh are looking at what it means when criminal charges are dismissed, the types of charges that are most often dismissed, and why you may still need your record expunged years after you’ve been cleared.
What Does It Mean When Charges Are Dismissed?
Our justice system is set up to prevent wrongful convictions, which is why the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime he or she is accused of. However, before a trial even begins, the prosecutor must still show sufficient evidence is in place to support the charges, called the “burden of production.”
If, after charges are filed, the prosecution finds they don’t have probable cause to show the accused committed the crime, they can file a motion to dismiss the charges. Similarly, a judge can also dismiss charges if the prosecutor does not have enough evidence to support probable cause, a witness changed their statement, or evidence has been lost. It is important to note that after charges are dismissed, they can be re-filed if additional evidence is found against the accused.
Additional Grounds for Dismissal
In addition to insufficient evidence, the court may dismiss charges after certain conditions are met.
- Pretrial diversion: Commonly used in drug and alcohol cases, prosecutors may offer a pretrial diversion in which the accused fulfills agreed-upon requirements, such as substance abuse treatment, community service, or paying a fine. After this is completed, the charges are dismissed and the case is sealed.
- Deferred Prosecution: The defendant is placed on probation prior to receiving a guilty verdict. If they fulfill the terms of probation, there will be no conviction on their record.
- Rights were violated: The prosecution can’t use coerced cofessions, evidence gained through illegal searches, or illegal arrest. If a defendant’s rights were violated, the charges may be dismissed, though evidence gained through legal means can lead to the charges being re-filed.
- Exculpatory evidence: While the burden of proof is on the prosecutor, if the defense brings forth evidence that clears their client, such as DNA evidence, witness testimony, or an irrefutable alibi, the charges can be dismissed.
- Cooperation between prosecutors and defendants: In some cases, the prosecution and defense will negotiate a way to have the charges dropped or dismissed. This is often in cases of minor offenses, such as traffic violations and misdemeanors when it’s the defendant’s first arrest.
What Happens After Charges Are Dismissed
If criminal charges against you have been dismissed, whether it’s through a not-guilty verdict, insufficient evidence to support the charges, or negotiation with the prosecutor, you’re free to get back to your life. You can’t be charged for the same crime twice, though if charges were dismissed during arraignment or before you were tried, you may be arrested again if new evidence is brought forth.
Once your case has been dismissed, the charges will still be on your record, which can show up during a background check for employment, renting an apartment, or applying for professional certification or license. In order to completely clear your record, you need to have your record expunged. This is a process in which you must file a petition with the county courthouse in which your charge originated. Having an attorney assist you with this process and file on your behalf can eliminate delays or mistakes that could cause your expungement to be denied.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing criminal charges or need your record expunged, you need an experienced attorney on your side who can help you get a more favorable outcome in your case. To speak with an attorney 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, call us at (919) 887-8040 or fill out the form below to get started.