What Happens When Charges Are Dropped or Dismissed?

A prosecutor can drop or dismiss a criminal charge for many reasons. Sometimes they do it voluntarily, but often you need a Wisconsin criminal defense attorney to advocate to have your charges removed in this way.

When your charge is dropped, it could reappear later if more evidence comes to light. If your charge is dismissed, sometimes it goes away forever, and you cannot be charged again. But, sometimes, you can be charged again. Understanding which type of dismissal may be possible in your case is essential. Hart Powell, S.C. has fought for its Wisconsin criminal defense clients since 1993, and we want to help you secure the best possible dismissal in your situation.

Reasons Charges May Be Dropped or Dismissed

One of the opportunities for a charge to be dropped is when a plea deal is made. A charge may be dropped in exchange for the defendant pleading guilty to another charge. In that case, the dropped charge is gone for good. However, if the charge is dropped before a plea deal is made, the charge could be made again when the prosecution finds more evidence to support it.

The prosecution can dismiss a charge at any time, even at trial, before it submits the case to the jury. While not an exhaustive list, the following are some reasons that prosecutors will dismiss a case.

Resources. Prosecutors want to secure successful convictions and plea bargains. Good statistics in these categories are vital to a prosecutor’s office, proving its effectiveness and efficiency. But prosecutors also have enormous caseloads and are often overworked. Sometimes a prosecutor may dismiss a case because they want to use their resources elsewhere.

Insufficient Evidence. The prosecutor can dismiss a criminal charge if they no longer want to argue the case in front of a jury because they do not have sufficient evidence of a crime. A dismissal for insufficient evidence can happen either when the prosecutor chooses to or when an experienced Wisconsin criminal law attorney files a successful motion arguing that the prosecution lacks evidence.

Fourth Amendment Violations. If the prosecutor knows essential evidence will be inadmissible at trial, dismissal may be appropriate. A skilled defense attorney will argue that illegally obtained evidence, such as that obtained without a search warrant, is “the fruit of the poisonous tree” according to the “exclusionary rule.” In such a case, the evidence violates a defendant’s constitutional rights and is inadmissible at trial.

Cooperation. Sometimes a prosecutor will dismiss a case if a witness or victim refuses to cooperate, testify, or provide evidence. Also, the prosecutor may drop charges against a defendant if the defendant is willing to give testimony or evidence in another case, such as as an informant or testifying witness. Or, the prosecutor may drop or dismiss a more serious charge in exchange for a guilty plea on a lesser charge.

New Information. A criminal defense attorney can help you find and produce evidence of your innocence. Your attorney can use new witness testimony, DNA results, newly discovered video, or newly acquired cell phone information to prove you did not commit the crime. When a defense attorney presents this information to a prosecutor, it makes dismissal more likely.

Diversion or Deferred Judgment. For some charges, it may be possible to enter an arrangement in which the prosecution agrees to dismiss your charges after you successfully complete a diversion or deferred judgment program.

Is a Wisconsin Dismissal Permanent?

It depends. If the prosecution offers to dismiss your charges, you should work with a Wisconsin criminal defense attorney to help you obtain the most secure dismissal. There are two types of dismissals: those with prejudice and those without prejudice.

A dismissal with prejudice means the charges are dismissed, and the prosecution can never bring the same charge against you again. A dismissal with prejudice generally occurs when the statute of limitations has run on a crime, and the prosecution cannot charge you again within the time limit. Dismissal with prejudice can also occur when the case is dismissed because the prosecution violated the defendant’s constitutional rights.

Charges can also be dismissed without prejudice. When a prosecutor drops a charge without prejudice, the prosecutor can bring those charges again within the statute of limitations. While this dismissal ends your case, it can leave you still feeling uncertain and anxious because of the possibility of being charged again.

Contact Hart Powell, S.C. Today

If you are defending a criminal charge, you need to speak to one of the seasoned criminal defense attorneys of Hart Powell, S.C. to discuss your options. Our Milwaukee attorneys have defended clients since 1993. Our legal team pays careful attention to each of our client’s cases because we know that our client’s freedoms are on the line.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact the Milwaukee criminal defense lawyers of Hart Powell, S.C. immediately to discuss your case and how we can fight to get your charges dropped or dismissed. Call us at (414) 271-9595 for a confidential consultation.

Written by Michael Hart & Craig Powell

Last Updated : November 2, 2022