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Why are criminal cases dismissed?

Today I had two cases dismissed (scoreboarding disclaimer). Let’s discuss why criminal cases are dismissed.

First, let me offer 3 categories of problems that lead to dismissals- factual, legal, and logistical. The first two categories are self explanatory. Logistical problems include actually getting the evidence (or witnesses) in front of a jury.

Legal issues arise from research. Factual issues from investigation. Logistical issues require a deadline and can be manufactured.

Every case that pleads represents the easiest logistical outcome for the State. With a plea the State doesn’t have to put the show together. Only by creating urgency (setting the case for trial/pre trial) can you benefit from logistical problems.

Prosecutors appreciate the risk and work involved in contested hearings. Some DAs office even have official retribution policies for pre trial/trial settings. One example- Ellis County prosecutors routinely withdraws all plea bargain offers if you set a pre trial hearing. That policy, combined with a closed file/no discovery policy is a recipe for injustice. It is also a recognition that a case may be great on paper, but can and will fall apart in court.

Back to today’s dismissals. I had a family violence case set for trial. It was not clear if the witnesses would show for trial (logisitcal), the DA has buckets full of other cases to prep for (logistical), the evidence against my client was flimsy (factual), finally my client had a defense for his use of force (legal). The case was dismissed.

Dismissing a case with a “victim” is never easy. No DA wants an angry victim talking to the media about the uncaring DAs office. It’s much easier to dismiss a dope case than an assault or theft case.

My second dismissal was a state jail possession case. This was mostly factual. A typical LEO tactic is to arrest everyone in a car when drugs are found. Arrest em all, let the DA sort it out. In this case the factual buck was passed to me. Only after reviewing the reports and video did I have the factual ammo to request a dismissal. The ADA agreed with my assessment and dismissed the case.

The dope case was never set for a contested hearing. Many factually weak cases aren’t. It’s one reason that a defense lawyer’s trial win/loss stats are misleading. Many of the cases I could win at trial, are never tried. As much as I rail against prosecutors many do the right thing with bad cases and dismiss.

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