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An early step in many criminal cases is a motion to dismiss the charges. It is a request from the defendant, asking the court to end the case before it ever gets to trial.
Motions to dismiss can be based on numerous issues and only some of them are granted. While every criminal case is unique, let's take a look at a few of the reasons why a court will grant a motion to dismiss.
One of the biggest reasons criminal cases get tossed out of court is a problem with the evidence. This can be an issue with the evidence itself or with how the evidence was discovered or collected.
In some cases, the evidence will be insufficient to either (a) prove that the defendant committed the crime, or (b) prove that a crime was committed at all. For instance, officers and prosecutors in a drug case may not have fingerprints, an eyewitness, or photo or video evidence proving the defendant possessed drugs; or, they the amount of drugs may not satisfy the possession statute.
If law enforcement violated the rules regarding probable cause or a person's reasonable expectation of privacy, any evidence obtained may be inadmissible in court. And without such evidence, there may not be a case against the defendant. As an example, if an officer did not have a valid reason for pulling over a driver, any evidence that the driver was drunk could be excluded from court, and a judge may dismiss the case.
The process of prosecuting a case from arrest to sentencing, known as criminal procedure, can be fairly complicated and includes many protections for criminal defendants. And if officers or prosecutors make a procedural error, it could be grounds for dismissing the case.
A procedural error could be anything from mistakes in the arrest, booking, or bail hearing process to faults in a pretrial hearing or motion. There are also statutory limits on how long prosecutors have to file criminal charges.
As noted above, criminal prosecutions can be complicated and the consequences can be severe. And there may be additional reasons why a criminal charge could be dismissed. An experienced criminal law attorney can best help you understand your rights and make sure your case is handled properly.