If you’re facing charges as a defendant in Kentucky, understanding your legal rights and how the criminal justice system works is indispensable. One crucial aspect of this is knowing what it means to have charges dropped and understanding strategies that can be taken to make this happen. 

What Does Dropping Charges Mean in Criminal Cases?

Dropping charges in criminal cases refers to the act of withdrawing or dismissing one’s accusation or allegations. It puts an end to your case, meaning you are no longer facing prosecution. This is done by the prosecutor. 

Dropping charges is not the same as a judge dismissing charges for lack of evidence following a preliminary hearing. The distinction lies primarily in who initiates the action and at what stage in the proceedings. 

Dropping charges is an act carried out by the prosecutor, and it can theoretically happen at any point during proceedings prior to a verdict.

On the other hand, a dismissal after a preliminary hearing is done by the judge, and the prosecutor has no say in this matter. This can occur even if the prosecutor wishes to continue with the charges and believes there is enough evidence to make their case. 

Why Would the Prosecutor Drop Criminal Charges?

A prosecutor might make the decision to drop charges for several reasons. Some of the most common include the following: 

Witness Reluctance

The testimonies of witnesses are often crucial for establishing the facts of a case. If key witnesses undermine this process either by being unwilling or unable to testify, it will significantly weaken the prosecution’s case and could lead them to drop the charges. 

Lack of Victim Cooperation

Similar to witness reluctance, if victims are uncooperative, it becomes challenging for prosecutors to build a compelling case, and they may choose to drop the charges. 

Constitutional Violations

Suppose that during the course of the investigation, evidence was collected in a manner that violated your constitutional rights, such as through illegal search or seizure. There’s a very real chance that this evidence would be excluded from use at trial. If this happens, the prosecutor may have no choice but to drop the charges. 

Exculpatory Evidence

When new evidence surfaces that would cast significant doubt about your guilt, a prosecutor may take a second look at whether going forward with prosecution is justifiable. They might end up dropping the charges as a result.

Plea Bargaining

As part of plea bargaining negotiations, where you agree to plead guilty to a lesser offense than originally charged, the prosecutor may agree to drop more serious felony charges in exchange for your guilty plea to a misdemeanor.

Prosecutorial Discretion

Prosecutorial discretion is a powerful tool and plays a significant role in determining whether to move forward with charges. Prosecutors will look at factors like the quality of evidence available, public interest, and resources required to prosecute. If they believe it’s not the best decision to proceed with the case, they have the authority to drop the charges.

The decision to drop charges in criminal cases involves various considerations. Understanding these factors can provide a better grasp on how the process works and how to best approach your case. 

The Alleged Victim Does Not Have the Power to Drop Charges 

A common misconception is that the victim in a criminal case has the power to drop charges. However, it is important to understand how criminal prosecutions work. When you are charged with a crime, your offense isn’t just against an individual; it’s also against society or the state.

A victim’s concerns and desires may greatly influence a prosecutor’s decision about whether to pursue or drop charges in certain situations – particularly when it comes time for court proceedings. However, the victim does not have unilateral authority over these decisions.

This can sometimes create tension between personal wishes and legal procedure if a victim does not want to see someone prosecuted but authorities decide otherwise given their assessment of public interest considerations.

A Victim Could Decide Not to Cooperate 

If a victim decides not to cooperate with the process – for instance, by refusing to show up to testify – that will impact the strength of the prosecutor’s case. It can create difficulty in procuring the necessary evidence or corroboration required to prove certain elements beyond a reasonable doubt. This could lead a prosecutor to drop charges.

This isn’t an absolute though—in theory, the court does hold the power to issue a bench warrant for a victim which would force them to show up to court, as they’d be arrested and brought in.  

However, this force-based approach isn’t often sought, as it just isn’t good practice to victimize people by forcing them to testify. This is usually reserved for very serious cases only. 

Contact Our Louisville Criminal Defense Attorneys For Help With Your Charges

For more information, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Suhre & Associates DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyers give us a call today at (859) 569-4014 or visit us at our Lexington law office.

Suhre & Associates DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyers
214 S Clay St A
Louisville, KY 40202

(502) 371-7000