For even extremely serious criminal charges such as murder, it is sometimes possible to have the charges dismissed before going to trial if there is sufficient evidence to support the defendant’s innocence. Once a bill of information or grand jury indictment has been filed, however, it is highly unusual for the district attorney to dismiss a case without going to trial. The criminal defense attorney must actively work to persuade the district attorney that the case should be dismissed by continually introducing evidence in favor of the defendant.
Recently we represented a client charged with attempted first degree murder and attempted armed robbery. We were able to get these charges dismissed, and the reason for that dismissal was fairly simple. We kept working the district attorney’s office with evidence, hearings and motions. Any district attorney is reluctant to face the weakness of their case. In order to work towards a dismissal, it is important to do the following three things:
- Provide physical evidence: In this case, we had a statement from the victim that cast doubt on the allegations against my client. We provided the written statement to the district attorney’s office.
- Schedule hearings in front of the judge to document your evidence. Not only did we submit the evidence to the district attorney’s office, we also scheduled hearings to introduce the evidence into the official record. Once evidence is established in the record, the district attorney must now face the fact that this evidence will be introduced in front of the jury at trial.
- File motions to present evidence in front of the judge. One of our motions was the “notice of an alibi witness.” We had a witness that would testify that our client was not at the scene of the crime on the night of the alleged first degree murder attempt.
The district attorney’s office, if they dismiss a case, must make sure the dismissal is supported by the evidence. So it is necessary to provide them with all of the evidence – documentation, DNA evidence, recordings, photographs, statements — to make the district attorney realize that if they take the case in front of a judge or jury, they may very well lose. At some point, the district attorney will reach a “tipping point” and move to dismiss the case.
In most cases, your defense attorney is not under a legal obligation to introduce evidence prior to trial. It is generally better to wait so that the evidence will have a strong effect once it is introduced at trial. If, for example, you have a written statement from the victim contradicting the allegations of the investigating officer, you may want to keep this information until the victim testifies. And if you feel sure that the case will proceed to trial no matter what evidence you introduce, it may be more advantageous to maintain the evidence. In this way, the district attorney will not be able to adjust their strategy prior to the trial.
However if you think the district attorney might actually dismiss the charges, the information should be shared to try and work towards a dismissal. The reason for this is that it is always best to avoid a jury trial if possible. No one can predict accurately how a jury will react to the evidence. If you have a chance to have the case dismissed prior to trial, then by all means provide evidence and introduce that evidence to the court.
If you are facing a felony charge, the best outcome is of course to have the charges dropped. However, this is rare and difficult. Your criminal defense attorney will need to work continually on your defense. In our recent first degree murder case, we had the felony charges dropped due to our consistent introduction of sworn testimony and evidence in open court. Our client is now completely free and does not face multiple years in jail because of a felony conviction.
The Thomas V. Alonzo Law Firm offers free initial consultations for felony charges in Louisiana and Mississippi.