There is a common misconception that a criminal case is difficult to win in court, however, this is incorrect. Almost 90% of cases are abandoned before they ever reach the trial stage. And the remaining 5 to 10% of situations have something to work on.
There are numerous reasons why a criminal case may appear weak in the eyes of defence counsel. It could be due to a lack of witnesses, a lack of evidence, the loss of proper witnesses, political pressures, or the involvement of major guns, among other reasons. Hiring a competent attorney will assist you in dismissing your case. So, in this post, we’ll look at the top signs that a criminal case is weak, as well as techniques to prepare a good case.
Signs that a Criminal Case Is Weak
Here are a few signs that a criminal case is weak:
#1. Signs of a Weak Criminal Case: There Was No Probable Cause to Arrest
To make an arrest legal, law enforcement must have probable cause that the individual being arrested is guilty of a crime. Police officers cannot simply pull over any random individual on the street because their gut tells them to (“gut feelings” do not stand up in court).
During an arrest, a law enforcement officer must have a reasonable opinion, based on objective observation of facts and circumstances, that the person being arrested has done, or is committing, a crime.
For example, if an eyewitness tells a police officer that they witnessed a mugging down the street and that the suspect was wearing a blue shirt with a red beanie and carrying a machete, and a police officer sees a person matching the eyewitness’ description with the same weapon and decides to arrest that person, the officer has probable cause to arrest.
However, if a police officer arrests someone who was near the scene of the crime for no reason other than their proximity (willfully ignoring witness descriptions or CCTV footage), the arrest can be proven to have been made without probable cause, resulting in the charges being dropped during pre-trial negotiations. Any lawyer who charges by the hour can have the arrest thrown out.
Probable cause safeguards the innocent from false arrests, guaranteeing that people are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Illegal searches, like unjust arrests, are grounds for dismissal. It’s occasionally how charges are dropped in order to get a court date. Before opening a glove compartment in a car during a regular traffic check or opening drawers in a suspect’s home, police must have probable cause. A search may be carried out only if the police have a search warrant.
Extensive circumstances may be a probable cause (e.g., a gunshot was heard from the outside, a suspect ran into the building, evidence may be destroyed).
#2. Signs of a Weak Criminal Case: A Typo in the Criminal Complaint
When law enforcement agents make an arrest, they must prepare a criminal complaint or another sort of charge record. The arresting officer records information about the suspect as well as the offence they may have committed in this document. This is signed under oath by the officer, which means they swear to the total truthfulness of what they’re writing down.
Each state has different requirements for what information is written down on a charging document, and it must be precisely followed; otherwise, the document can be null and void, even if it was a minor error or typo.
Of course, mistakes or omissions can be addressed, but only by the arresting officer who prepared the charging document in the first place. Given the length of time it takes for cases to be tried, a minor error may go undiscovered until the very last moment; in certain circumstances, the arresting officer in the custody of the document has already retired or left the force. As a result, the document may no longer be amended, rendering the criminal complaint null and void, forcing the prosecution to dismiss the complaint.
#3. Signs of a Weak Criminal Case: The Charges Have Been Filed – Inadequate Evidence
When a defendant is arrested and criminal charges are filed against them, the prosecuting attorney must present the case to the court. They must also demonstrate that they have enough evidence to prove, or at the very least establish probable cause, that the defendant is guilty during this presentation.
The prosecution, like during an arrest, must offer evidence that indicates probable cause, which means that the evidence is objective and factual enough to prove that the defendant committed a crime. A grand jury will decide whether the evidence is sufficient; if it is, the case will go to trial.
If a grand jury determines that the evidence is insufficient to establish probable cause, the charges will be dropped and the case will be dismissed. This occurs when prosecutors have scant evidence against the defendant.
Often, prosecutors will not even bring the case before a grand jury if they believe the evidence is insufficient.
#4. Signs of a Weak Criminal Case: Unavailable Witnesses or Lost Evidence
To assess a defendant’s innocence, trials rely on two crucial factors: witness testimony and physical evidence. If important witnesses or key pieces of evidence become suddenly unavailable or lost, the prosecution may be forced to dismiss the case, especially if that testimony or evidence is critical in showing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Cases have been won (and lost) only on the basis of physical evidence, therefore it’s hard to overestimate their significance, given that it’s one of the three categories of proof required by the court. For trial lawyers, it’s critical that the evidence they have on hand not only carries weight but that it’s also handled and handled properly so that it doesn’t taint their objectivity and legitimacy.
Lawyers must also guarantee that their witnesses are confident in their testimonies and are not frightened to deliver them in the first place. On the basis of the Fifth Amendment, certain witnesses may even decline to testify (some testimonies may hurt the witnesses themselves, especially if they were accomplices to the alleged crime of the defendant). Witnesses may sometimes simply vanish or die.
In any of these circumstances, the prosecutor may be forced to drop the case due to a lack of evidence.
Now that we have seen the signs of a weak criminal case, let’s ways one can develop the weak case into a strong criminal case.
Steps to Developing a Strong Criminal Case
When someone files a complaint against someone, the police department initially investigates to gather evidence. If they believe it is possible, they proceed to the next procedure. They file charges against the defendant after discovering a part of the evidence against him.
Then, firstly, a hearing will be scheduled, and the investigation will proceed concurrently. Then the other processes will be taken, culminating in a trial and verdict.
Let us walk you through the steps of building a criminal case.
- Pressing the charge
- Prior to going to trial, there will be an initial hearing.
- The case’s discovery
- Bargaining a Plea
- The first hearing.
- Motions and pre-trial hearings
- The trial and the verdict
Reasons for Dismissal
There are several types of dismissals. Some of them result in the prosecutor dropping the charges, while others result in the charges being dropped by the court.
Diversion of Pretrial Proceedings
California has given courts the authority to establish pretrial diversion programs for a variety of offences. These programs allow you to receive therapy for mental health, behavioural issues, or substance misuse before going to trial. You must also remain out of mischief while enrolled in your program. If you finish the program, the charges against you will be dropped.
You will not have a criminal conviction on your record. Your arrest record will be included in your record, but the court will seal the arrest record if you successfully complete the diversion program. It is only available to police enforcement.
If you do not finish the pretrial diversion program, your case will be tried.
Judgment Entry Postponed
In addition, California courts have the authority to establish deferred entry of judgment programs. These programs are similar to pretrial diversion, but you must attend the program by pleading guilty.
If you finish the program, the court will drop the charges against you. If you do not complete the program, you will be sentenced by the court depending on your charges.
You must renounce your right to a trial and plead guilty in order to participate in a deferred entry of judgment program. The court does not require a guilty plea in a pretrial diversion program.
However, the end consequence is the same. If you successfully complete the deferred entry of judgment program, the charges will be dropped and you will not have a criminal conviction on your record.
If the police abused your rights while investigating you, the evidence they gathered may be excluded by the court. Without this evidence, the prosecution may be forced to drop the accusations.
The court may suppress evidence for a variety of reasons, including:
#1. Unlawful Search
Under the US Constitution, the police must get your permission or a search warrant to perform a pre-arrest search. The police can also confiscate evidence that is visible to the public or evidence that they uncover while arresting you.
A common example is a car search during a traffic stop. If a search violated the United States Constitution, the judge could bar the prosecution from using any narcotics, firearms, or other evidence discovered during the search.
As a result, the prosecution may be forced to drop drugs, weapons, or other charges against you.
#2. Forced Confession
A confession cannot be used by the prosecution if it was not given voluntarily. This means that any compulsion employed by the police can result in a confession being thrown out by the judge.
Coercion may include:
- Assault on the body
- Assault threats
- Food or water deprivation
- Refusing to seek legal advice
A prosecution may rely on your confession in some situations. If the confession is rejected by the judge, the prosecutor may be forced to drop the charges.
#3. Arrest Is Legally Flawed
To legally arrest you, the police must have probable cause. To obtain an arrest warrant or indictment, the prosecution must convince a judge or grand jury that there is sufficient evidence to charge you with a crime.
In most cases, prosecutors in California do not seek an indictment from a grand jury. Rather, police investigate crimes and apprehend suspects. The cops then give the prosecutor a probable cause statement to back up the arrest.
The prosecution presents the evidence on which law enforcement relied for probable cause at a preliminary hearing. In rare situations, the court may determine that the police did not collect sufficient evidence to support the charges, in which case the prosecution may seek to dismiss the accusations.
#4. Exonerating Evidence
The police are not required to find proof of your innocence. Instead, all they need to do is find evidence that they committed a crime. After the police have arrested you, your criminal defence attorney will need to conduct an investigation to find any exculpatory evidence.
Exculpatory evidence can serve several purposes, including:
- Providing proof of your alibi
- Accusing someone else
- Leaving you out as a perpetrator
Physical evidence, such as DNA acquired after a sexual assault, may, for example, rule you out as a culprit. When combined with security footage demonstrating that you were at home when the crime was done, a prosecutor may be forced to drop the charges.
After a Dismissal
After a judge or prosecutor dismisses charges, a case may not be dropped. If the charges are dropped without prejudice, prosecutors may re-file them if the police discover fresh evidence. As a result, you should maintain communication with your criminal defence attorney so that you have representation if the case resurfaces.
No case should be thought of as a dead-end. A thorough investigation and detective work can bring the victim justice. When there are indications that a case is lacking in evidence and witnesses, the prosecutor or jury board will dismiss it. As a result, the police must work hard to develop the case. Otherwise, some victims may not receive justice in some circumstances.
Signs of a Weak Criminal Case FAQs
What is a weak criminal case?
Inadequate evidence, a lack of witnesses or qualified witnesses, political influence, and other factors can all weaken a case. It may contain all of these elements at the same time. A good attorney, on the other hand, can eliminate or minimize a case’s weaknesses, increasing the strength to fight for justice further.
How do you persuade a prosecutor to withdraw the charges?
Because there are numerous issues that your counsel must provide, the prosecution may consider dropping the charge. All of this evidence point to the accused is innocent. These can include video footage, crime scene evidence, and the confession of the convicted, who may or may not be the same individual charged.
What constitutes a strong criminal case?
To create a compelling case, the plaintiff’s attorney must be involved from the start. The first priority should be to prepare the documents and evidence. As a result, the accessible witness will be of considerable assistance. Finally, there should be a good presentation in front of the court. The defendant’s counsel, on the other hand, must concentrate on the key elements of the case and respond to the charges logically. This, too, necessitates planning.