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Dropped vs. Dismissed Criminal Charges In California: What’s The Difference?

Okabe & Haushalter Oct 27, 2018 Criminal Defense

If you are facing criminal charges in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or elsewhere in California, all you want to carry on with your life is to get the charges against you “dropped” or “dismissed.” Or is it dropped and dismissed? Whichever makes more sense?

The words “dropped” and “dismissed” are often confused and used interchangeably when it comes to criminal charges, even though from a legal perspective, they have two completely different meanings.

Depending on whether the charges against you were “dismissed” or “dropped,” the outcome of your criminal case may not be what you expected it to be. We invited our San Francisco criminal defense attorney from Okabe & Haushalter to explain the difference between dismissed and dropped charges.

Pleading guilty or not guilty in California

As far as the trial goes, many people understand what happens when you enter the courtroom: you either plead guilty (admit your fault) or plead not guilty (deny that you committed the crime). But what happens afterward?

After you enter a plea and plead guilty or not guilty, a jury will find you either guilty or not guilty. Now, if you are represented by an experienced criminal defense attorney in San Francisco or elsewhere in California, he or she will use all legal tools to reduce the number of charges you face, reduce the penalties, or get the charges dropped and dismissed.

What does it mean when criminal charges are ‘dropped’?

But what does it mean to have the criminal charges against you “dropped”? When criminal charges are dropped by the prosecutor, it means that the charges against you have been canceled. A prosecutor or district attorney may choose to drop some or all charges against you.

But when does a prosecutor or DA drop charges? Criminal charges can be dropped when the prosecutor realizes that the charge does not fit the facts of the crime or the evidence against you is not sufficient to proceed with the trial and find you guilty.

For example, let’s imagine that you were arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. However, when analysis of your blood shows that the blood alcohol content was lower than the legal drinking limit, the prosecutor realizes that the charge does not fit the facts of the alleged crime, and drops the charge.

Besides, charges can be dropped in exchange for a guilty plea. “This is a common tactic used by prosecutors all across California,” says our San Francisco criminal defense attorney.

What does it mean when criminal charges are ‘dismissed’?

Dismissing a criminal case, on the other hand, means stopping the charges. More often than not, criminal charges are dismissed when the judge finds some legal errors with the charge such as failure to find probable cause to charge the defendant.

Our criminal defense lawyer in California explains that if there was no probable cause to charge you with the crime in the first place or if your actions do not fit the legal definition of the crime, your case will most likely be dismissed.

But here’s another question that might bother you. “Are charges dropped or dismissed forever and permanently?” Not always. It often happens that prosecutors re-file the charges if more evidence was obtained in a police investigation since the case was dropped or dismissed.

If you are facing criminal charges in California, do not hesitate to seek legal representation to get the charges dismissed or dropped as soon as possible. Get a free consultation by contacting Okabe & Haushalter. Call our offices at 310-430-7799.