When you’re facing criminal charges, it can be difficult to know what to hope for. You’ve likely had fantasies about dramatic courtroom scenes culminating in a “not guilty” verdict, as your friends and family erupted in celebratory cheer. Yet the boring reality is that few cases reach this stage, and for good reason.
That’s because the road to trial is notoriously paved with the kind of time, money, and stress most people would give anything to avoid.
Indeed, defending a lawsuit can involve a wide range of stressors, including:
- Disruptive court appearances interfering with work, school, and family vacations.
- Costly transportation fees.
- Suspended drivers licenses and bank accounts.
- Embarrassing conversations with friends and colleagues about how your case is going.
- Nervous uncertainty about facing jail time, excessive fines, or a conviction on your permanent record.
- Feeling like your life is on hold.
- Dread about the future.
Understanding the toll these circumstances take on a defendant, a good criminal defense lawyer is primarily focused on getting your case dismissed as soon as possible. That is, to persuade the prosecutor to willingly drop the charges against you.
There Are Many Reasons Why A Case Gets Dismissed.
Sometimes, you get lucky, and your case comes with a built-in escape hatch. This happens when a procedural violation bars the admission of critical evidence.
For example, perhaps you were not properly read your Miranda rights when you were arrested, or maybe the police searched your home without a valid warrant.
If you can prove that critical evidence was obtained in violation of your constitutional rights, the prosecution may not be able to use it. Depending on other circumstances, they will most likely willingly drop your case.
You’ll want to make sure to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who will comb through all of the facts with you. Without careful analysis, a procedural violation could be missed.
But unfortunately, few dismissals happen this easily. The good news is that you can still get your case dismissed, even if the government made no error in prosecuting you.
A skilled criminal defense attorney knows how to create the conditions under which the prosecutor independently decides to dismiss your case in the interest of justice.
In the pretrial phase, your criminal attorney is constantly conversing with the prosecutor about physical evidence, witness interviews, plans for moving the case forward, etc.
It is through these conversations that a prosecutor gets a sense of the following two things:
- Who You Are
- Their likelihood of success at trial
This is important because of something called prosecutorial discretion.
See, lawyers are held to a code of professional responsibility, but the standards vary depending on the type of law they practice.
While a criminal defense attorney is required to zealously represent each defendant, regardless of personal opinion, prosecutors are expected to use more discretion.
It makes sense when you consider that prosecutors are ultimately representing the people. That is society at large. While two people might be charged with the same crime, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are both a danger to society. Part of a prosecutor’s job is to be aware of this difference and to pursue each case accordingly.
In other words, part of your criminal attorney’s job is to demonstrate to the prosecutor that you are one of the good ones.
However, as you might imagine, getting your case dismissed is not as simple as proving your excellent character.
Because you are probably not the first client your criminal lawyer has represented, he most likely has a pre-existing relationship with the prosecutor. It wouldn’t be trustworthy or effective to claim that each new client is yet another exception to the rule. Prosecutors are intelligent enough to know that every client can’t possibly be the Mother Theresa of their community.
But even if that weren’t the case, asking the prosecutor to make an exception for someone on the basis of their goodness is not in itself a strong strategy. And here’s why:
Prosecutors want to make sound, well-reasoned decisions that they feel proud to stand behind.
They have a career to advance and a reputation to uphold. Dismissing a case for emotional reasons can make them appear overly subjective, and thus unqualified for advancement.
In addition, prosecutors are aware that their decisions have consequences. There is the risk that any defendant they set free could go on to commit worse crimes in the future. Falling for a good sob story alone would weigh heavily not just on their reputation, but on their conscience.
That’s Why Getting Your Case Dismissed Requires A Two-Prong Approach.
Your criminal attorney needs to gradually establish what a great person you are while introducing doubts into the prosecutor’s mind about their ability to succeed at trial.
A prosecutor should never be made to feel like they were out-lawyered or bullied into dropping a case. Nor should they feel guilted into making an emotional decision.
The two-pronged approach works because it helps the prosecutor arrive at a decision that is both subjectively AND objectively sound.
The first prong is to make the prosecutor care about you so much that they want to find a reason to dismiss your case. Our article, 10 Ways You Can Help Your Attorney Get Your Case Dismissed will give you a detailed breakdown of what you can do to make that happen.
The second prong is all about giving them objective reasons to dismiss your case. Here’s how it’s done:
Let the prosecutor know that yours is not another “meet em and plead em” case.
Prosecutors are accustomed to criminal attorneys who charge low fees to a large number of clients in exchange for the bare minimum representation in court. These criminal attorneys are not digging into the evidence or working up the case. They simply don’t have the time.
Prosecutors have so much experience with these criminal attorneys that they can tell in 30 seconds whether your case falls into the “meet em and plead em” category. They’re not threatened, because it’s generally only a matter of time before clients represented by these criminal attorneys accept a plea deal.
However, when a prosecutor realizes they are dealing with a criminal lawyer of substance, they have to be on their toes. These criminal attorneys are more aware of the details than they are, pointing out facts they missed, correcting their errors and illuminating their weaknesses.
Ultimately, prosecutors are government employees who are constantly filling up with new cases. They know they’re at an inherent disadvantage when dealing with a criminal attorney who has less clients and more time to devote to each throughout every stage of the process.
Moreover, given that there is less than a fifteen percent chance of a case reaching trial, seeing that your criminal attorney is doing the legwork helps your case stand out from the pack. Which leads to the next point.
Prepare Your Case As If It’s Going to Trial.
How do you show the prosecutor that you know what you’re talking about? By actually knowing what you’re talking about.
The facts of a case are going to come up organically in conversations with prosecutors. If your criminal attorney is banking on the probability that you’ll get tired of the time and expense involved with fighting your charges and take the plea deal, he has no incentive to actually be familiar with the details behind your charges. And his lack of knowledge will come across to the prosecutor.
So, you want a criminal attorney who will prepare your case for trial for two reasons.
One is that doing so is the best way to make a strong impression on the prosecutor.
When your criminal attorney spends the time to prepare a trial strategy, he is able to show some of his work in those conversations. He can point out inconsistencies in witness statements, gaps in the evidence, and holes in the arguments.
The other reason is that it is the best way to get a strong impression of the prosecutor.
Your criminal attorney can tell a lot about the strength of the prosecution’s case if he’s adequately prepared for these conversations. This is important because it helps you make the best possible decision regarding whether to accept a plea deal, in the event that your case does not get dismissed.
Of course, it’s important that your criminal defense attorney does not reveal too much of his hand. Keeping some of your defenses under wraps means keeping the prosecutor uncertain about of what to expect at trial, and more likely to feel that, combined with other factors, dismissing your case is the most logical, fair, and well-reasoned thing to do.
As you can see, getting your case dismissed is a complicated process. It requires great skill, patience, experience, and attention to detail. It also requires hard work and diligent preparation. These are things to keep in mind when choosing your criminal defense attorney.
So you’ve retained a criminal lawyer, or are still looking for one, you’ll want to ask what he is doing to prepare your case for trial now. Making sure your criminal attorney is doing this work is the best way to increase your chances of getting your case dismissed.
But there’s another reason why pre-trial preparation is so important. Which is that ultimately, whether a case goes trial should be your decision.
Just as the prosecutor should never feel bullied into dismissing a case, the client should never feel pressured into accepting a plea deal. Good lawyering involves not only counseling you on your options but actively creating great options for you.
Our article, Great Lawyering Means Creating Great Options, explains the choices you’re faced with when a case doesn’t get dismissed.
You’ll learn why preparing a case for trial is so important no matter what the outcome, and be able to arm yourself with the questions you need to ask and the considerations to keep in mind when choosing a criminal attorney or assessing your current one.
Remember that it’s you who is affected for life by the outcome of your case. Protect your interests by educating yourself about your rights, and choosing a criminal attorney best equipped to advocate for you.