Dismissal or Withdrawal of Charges in Texas
In Texas, not every criminal case ends in a conviction or an acquittal. In some cases, the court will reach a point where they decide to formally withdraw or dismiss any charges against the defendant. While this may seem like a rare occurrence, it actually happens fairly often.
Of course, these situations can be very advantageous for a defendant. The withdrawal or dismissal of criminal charges means that a defendant can avoid serving jail time or dealing with probation. Exactly how and why dismissals or withdrawals are granted can vary on a case-by-case basis.
What Are Withdrawals and Dismissals?
When a person is arrested on suspicion of committing a crime, they have the right to a fair and speedy trial. However, they also have the right to have a judge determine if there is enough evidence to prosecute them for the crime with which they have been charged. In some cases, a judge may determine that not enough evidence exists to proceed with the case. If this happens, criminal charges may be dismissed or withdrawn.
Before a trial can proceed, a defendant must have a preliminary hearing. These hearings allow the judge to examine evidence in the case. At this hearing, the prosecution will explain their evidence in an attempt to show that there is probable cause to try the defendant. The defense is then allowed to contest the prosecution’s claims with evidence of their own. The defense may try to have the charges dismissed by arguing that:
- The defendant was arrested illegally
- Documents in the case were filled out improperly or were lost
- Insufficient evidence to reach a conviction
- Evidence has been lost or misplaced
After all evidence has been presented, the judge will consider the evidence to determine if there is sufficient probable cause to proceed with the trial. If the judge determines that there is a lack of probable cause, the charges will be dismissed or withdrawn. If this occurs, the defendant will be free to go. If the defendant is incarcerated, they will be released from jail. The charges are effectively dropped but the defendant may be tried for the same crime at a later date if new evidence emerges. Since the defendant was never tried for the initial crime, double jeopardy does not occur.
Dismissal After Conviction
Many dismissals occur before a defendant has gone to trial. However, it’s possible that charges may be dismissed after a conviction has been handed down. In these cases, the court can determine that a conviction was reached improperly or in violation of the law.
To get a post-conviction dismissal of charges, a defendant must submit an appeal. The appellate court can then issue a ruling on the legitimacy of a conviction. For example, if Robert was convicted of possessing two ounces of methamphetamines, he may be sent to prison. However, on appeal it is revealed that two police officers falsified documents in order to obtain a search warrant. Therefore, any illegal drugs that they seized with that warrant are deemed inadmissible. Since those drugs were used to convict Robert, the appellate court rules that the original conviction is invalid and dismisses the charges.
Pursuing a dismissal of charges can be very difficult without solid legal representation. Hiring an experienced lawyer is the best way to attempt to convince the court to dismiss charges. An attorney may be able to find reliable evidence and then present that evidence in such a way that the judge agrees to dismiss the charges. Even if a person has been convicted of a crime, finding a good lawyer after a sentence is handed down is a good way to prepare for an appeal.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, Matt Sharp can help protect your legal rights. Contact his office at (713) 868-6100.