What’s the Difference Between Charges Dropped and Case Dismissed? 

 May 24, 2018

By  LMW Attorneys

How many times have you heard of violent incidents when a person says: “You messed with the wrong person! I’m going to press charges!”

Well, guess what, ladies and gentlemen: Unless you’re a prosecutor, you’re not pressing charges against anyone. The Assistant State Attorney is who decides whether to press charges, even if the victim of a crime later changes their mind about seeking justice.

Ok. Now that this misconception has been cleared up, let’s discuss the differences between charges being dropped and a case being dismissed.

Charges Dropped vs Dismissed: What’s the Difference?

Dropping Charges:

Ok. Let’s say you had some serious lapses in judgement and decided to rob a convenience store with your buddy, Bill. You thought it was just going to be a quick thing: Point the gun (just don’t shoot), get some money and Doritos, and drive away.

However, Bill freaks out and shoots the cashier, killing him. Now you’re going to get charged with conspiracy, robbery and felony murder.

But not Bill. Bill was smart enough to drive away, leaving you at the store, watching your entire life flash before your eyes.

Arresting officers show up, they tell you your Miranda rights, and you are taken into custody.

The prosecutor has enough evidence to charge you with all three crimes. However, they are having a really hard time finding Bill, and she tells you that if you cooperate with the State and tell them how to find him, she’ll drop the felony murder charge. That means a much smaller jail term. So you help out. You tell them where Bill lives, works, hangs out for fun and shops.

Bill is found, arrested, and now you are only facing two charges instead of three. Why? Because the same way the prosecutor can charge you with crimes, he or she can drop the charges. This can be done for several reasons:

– Not enough evidence to prevail at trial
– Newly discovered evidence that exonerates you
– You accept to plead guilty to a lesser offense
– You cooperated with the prosecution to help them catch another criminal

Ok. So after you’re arrested, booked, and you do your First Appearance in Court, the next step is the arraignment. This is when you appear in front of a Judge and are formally charged with a crime. If the prosecutor dropped a charge, you’ll hear the remaining ones at your arraignment, where you’ll get to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

If the prosecutor drops all the charges, you’re golden. The case is done and over.

Dismissing a Case:

Once the charges have been filed, now you have a formal case against you. If your attorney believes there still isn’t enough evidence to convict you, your attorney can file a Motion to Dismiss. This can be done for several reasons:

– The Defendant was charged with a crime for which he was pardoned
– Double jeopardy
– Immunity
– Disputed facts aren’t enough to conclude that a crime was committed

Your lawyer can file a Motion to Dismiss on one charge, two charges, or all the charges against the Defendant. If the Court grants the Motion on a charge, the case may proceed on the remaining charges. If the Court grants the Motion on all charges, you’re good to go.

So, in a nutshell, the prosecutor drops charges, while a Court (the Judge) has the authority to dismiss a case. Either way, if all charges are dropped or dismissed, the Defendant is free to go.

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Disclaimer: This blog is intended to be for informational purposes only and does not establish an attorney/client relationship.