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What Does It Take For Prosecutors To Drop The Charges Against A Defendant?


Movies about defendants in criminal cases often portray a long ordeal where the main character gets acquitted at trial after months of preparing for the trial with his or her defense lawyer.  This is not how most criminal cases go, even though all defendants have the constitutional right to a jury trial.  You may have heard the statistic that 90 percent of defendants in criminal cases plead guilty, and it might make you think that, if you get arrested, the chances are nine out of ten that you will have to spend the rest of your life explaining your criminal conviction to prospective employers, but in fact, this statistic only includes the cases that make it far enough to where the defendant has to enter a plea.  In some criminal cases, the state realizes that it is not possible for them to prosecute the case, so they drop the charges, which means that the defendant can walk away without a criminal record.  Here, our Miami drug crimes defense lawyer explains how, even if police tell you that the substance they found in your car tested positive for drugs, the traffic stop might not lead to a criminal case against you.

When Accusers and Witnesses Refuse to Testify

In some cases, the prosecution’s case relies on testimony from witnesses, including the alleged victim.  This is often the case in domestic violence cases, where no one was present at the time of the alleged crime except the alleged victim and the defendant.  Witnesses can refuse to participate in the investigation of the case, and they can even withdraw their consent to participate even after giving one or more statements to police.  The decision whether to charge the defendant with a crime rests ultimately with the District Attorney’s office, not with victims or their families.  Without the participation of witnesses, the prosecution may or may not have enough evidence to move forward with the case.

For example, a victim might call the police to report a stolen item of property.  The victim might then ask the District Attorney to drop the charges after the defendant returns the stolen property.  In this case, the state may or may not continue with the case.  When witnesses change their story, it might mean more legal trouble for the defendant instead of less, if prosecutors suspect that witness intimidation plays a role.  When the witness is an alleged co-conspirator of the defendant, as often happens in drug trafficking and financial crime cases, the prosecutors might offer the witness a plea deal, or even complete immunity from prosecution, in exchange for his or her testimony.

When the Forensics Lab Mishandles Evidence

Some criminal cases have ended in acquittal because the forensics lab misplaced evidence, performed lab tests incorrectly, or left the evidence vulnerable to tampering.  Other times, mishandling of evidence has led to specific pieces of evidence being excluded from the trial.  In the most egregious cases of police and investigators dealing irresponsibly with evidence, the prosecution must drop the charges entirely.

This past summer, Phillip Katsabanis, a Miami rapper also known by his stage name Stitches, was arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking and illegally discharging a weapon.  Katsabanis called the police from his recording studio in Bay Harbor Islands at 6:30 in the morning and said that four armed men had tried to break in, so he had scared them away with two warning shots.  Police arrived half an hour later and seized a container full of blue pills and white powder; a field test identified the powder as cocaine.  The forensics lab never received the confiscated drugs, however, so the District Attorney had to drop the charges against Katsabanis.

When Witness Statements Contradict the Prosecution’s Case

Another reason for dropping the charges against Katsabanis was that witness statements contradicted the police report.  Investigators later interviewed two men who had been doing construction work near Katsabanis’ studio on the morning of the arrest, and they did not see any armed men or hear any gunshots; they only saw the police arrive.  Therefore, prosecutors also had to drop the charge of illegally discharging a firearm, since there was no evidence that Katsabanis had fired a gun.

Contact Our Drug Crimes Defense Attorneys

A South Florida criminal defense lawyer can help you get the charges against you dropped or, if that is not possible, secure a plea deal or a not guilty verdict at trial.  Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo in Miami, Florida for a free, confidential consultation about your case.




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