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Why Drop Criminal Charges?



Criminal charges do not always lead to trial. Many defendants plea bargain for reduced sentences. In other cases, the prosecutor decides to drop the charges. This can happen for a variety of reasons.

Who Can Drop Criminal Charges?

First, you should be clear on just who can decide whether to drop criminal charges. It is not the victim. The victim can file a complaint and agree to testify against the accused. It is the government—generally the office of the district attorney, attorney general, or other local authority where the crime occurred—that actually brings the charges.

That same office decides whether to drop the charges. The victim can choose to no longer participate in the case and request that charges be dropped. The prosecutor will take that into account, but is not obligated to drop the charges.

Why Victims Want to Drop Criminal Charges

Victims may change their minds about the complaint they filed that led to the charges. Victims have many reasons for doing this.

  • The victim may be afraid of the accused.
  • The victim may love the accused and want to maintain a relationship with him or her. This is common in domestic violence cases.
  • The victim may decide he or she identified the wrong person.

If you are a victim who would like charges dropped, you will need to talk with the prosecuting attorney's office and present your case.

If you are substantially changing your story, you could face charges of filing a false police report. You might want to consider talking to a criminal attorney yourself.

Why Prosecutors Drop Criminal Charges

If the victim refuses to cooperate, the prosecuting attorney may be forced to drop the charges. This happens when the case was built largely around the victim, without much other evidence.

However, dropping criminal charges does not necessarily have anything to do with the victim's wishes. Here are some other reasons the prosecutor may drop criminal charges:

  • New, credible witnesses have come forward to refute the current witnesses' stories.
  • The defense has enough evidence to sway a jury in their favor.
  • The physical evidence against the accused is weak.
  • New evidence exonerates the accused. An example of this is DNA evidence that was not available when the crime occurred.
  • The prosecution's best evidence has been ruled inadmissible. This can happen if the evidence was obtained without a valid warrant.
  • The prosecutor may drop more serious charges in exchange for a guilty plea to lesser charges.

If you have been charged with a crime and are looking for ways to get the charges against you dropped, talk with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who will review all the evidence, paperwork and potential defenses.