Victims of crimes cannot drop charges in Pennsylvania. Only the prosecuting attorney has the authority to drop charges. A victim of domestic abuse, for example, may change their mind about the charges against you, but it’s not that simple.
If you have charges against you and you want to know more about how to get the charges dropped or dismissed, a criminal defense lawyer from our firm will explain how criminal charges work and why victims can’t drop charges.
Pennsylvania Victims Are Not Allowed to Drop Charges
A victim cannot drop charges against the defendant. Only the prosecuting attorney has that power. One reason for this is to prevent coercion of the victim by others into changing their mind. However, some witnesses refuse to cooperate with the prosecution or request they drop the charges.
At this point, the prosecutor may choose to drop the case unless there is enough evidence against the defendant to continue pursuing the charges without the victim’s cooperation.
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Why Would a Prosecutor Drop Charges?
The criminal justice system is not perfect, even though television and films often make it seem like a simple process. It’s not as easy as the police making an arrest, the prosecutor filing charges, and then a trial occurring all in a matter of hours or days.
Charges are dropped or dismissed for a variety of reasons, including:
- Procedural violations: Law enforcement and the prosecution must follow protocol from the beginning to the end of a case. Perhaps the police did not have a warrant to execute a search or did not stop asking questions despite the defendant asking for a lawyer. These violations could be enough for the prosecution to drop the charges or for the judge to dismiss them.
- Not enough resources: Prosecutors have a lot of cases to bring, and the courts have full dockets. There may simply not be enough resources to prosecute a defendant, forcing prosecuting attorneys to be choosier about what cases they wish to pursue. The prosecutor could drop the charges or offer a deal for lower charges.
- Inadequate evidence: It shouldn’t happen, but evidence gets lost. Sometimes there’s not enough evidence to find you guilty. Or, perhaps the prosecutor thought there was enough evidence, but the defense was able to get some evidence thrown out. A lack of evidence can result in the prosecution dropping charges.
The burden of proof is on the prosecution in criminal cases. Prosecutors prefer a solid case with evidence to justify the charges against the defendant. A criminal defense lawyer from our firm can work to have charges against you dropped or dismissed by building a robust defense strategy.
How Are Criminal Charges Brought in Pennsylvania?
Criminal charges typically begin with a victim reporting a crime to law enforcement. The police investigate the allegations and collect evidence and witness statements. If they determine an arrest is necessary, they will take the accused party into custody by reading them their rights.
The district attorney will weigh the evidence to determine if charges should be brought. If the district attorney brings charges, there will be a preliminary hearing in a court of law where a judge will determine if the defendant should be brought to trial.
The legal process is complex, and it can take time for any case to wind through the system. In the meantime, the defendant could post bail or have to wait in jail until trial.
How a Lawyer Can Defend You Against Your Charges
From the moment the police arrest you, having a lawyer on your side may prove beneficial. You may believe that cooperating with the police and not asking for an attorney will make the prosecution drop the charges, but this is not often true. Anything you say to the police can be used against you in court, and you have rights that the police are not necessarily going to safeguard.
Obtaining legal representation from a criminal defense lawyer is not just an action you can take to defend yourself against your charges, it’s also your right.
A criminal defense lawyer from our firm will:
- Investigate the charges against you and the circumstances of your case. Your lawyer may discover that the police made procedural violations or that certain evidence should be tossed.
- Collect evidence countering the charges against you. There may be a witness the police did not talk to or evidence they did not collect that exonerates you.
- Protect your rights against those who would violate them. You have the right to not speak to the police without a lawyer present. Your lawyer can advise you on what questions to answer or not answer.
- Negotiate a deal with the prosecutor to reduce the charges. Your lawyer will present any offer made by the prosecutor, which you can accept or reject.
- Represent you in court and defend you at trial. Your lawyer will argue your case and work to persuade the jury to take your side.
- Develop a defense strategy to counter the charges against you.
We strongly urge you to consider hiring a lawyer if there are charges against you. You do not have to navigate the legal system alone.
Learn More About How Criminal Cases in Pennsylvania Work Today
You should not assume that the victim can simply drop the charges against you and set you free. Only the prosecuting attorney has the authority to drop the charges.
A criminal defense attorney from the Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC has the experience and training to defend you against your charges. We will develop a robust defense to challenge the prosecution and vigorously present your case to the jury.
To learn more about criminal charges, or to talk to a lawyer about your case, please contact us today.