Can Charges Be Dropped After Indictment?
Criminal charges can be dropped after an indictment. Of course, an indictment is never a good development for a defendant’s case. However, cases can still routinely be dismissed after a case is indicted.
This article discusses the ways that criminal cases are commonly dismissed after indictment.
If you are facing indicted criminal charges in NYC, contact Cody Warner, P.C. for a free consultation. We know how to strategically navigate the criminal justice system and can ensure that you get the best possible results.
What is an Indictment?
When a person is charged with a felony, the prosecution must get the case indicted for the case to move forward towards trial.
An indictment is a document that is issued by a grand jury. A grand jury is a group of members from the community who listen to evidence presented by the prosecution. The defense doesn’t get to cross examine witnesses or present a case at the grand jury, although the defendant has the right to testify.
An indictment indicates that there is reasonable cause to conclude that the defendant committed the offense, and therefore the case should move forward towards trial.
Importantly, when a case gets indicted, it doesn’t mean that the defendant is guilty. To be guilty of a crime, the prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. That is a much more difficult burden than to simply show there is reasonable cause to believe the defendant committed the crime.
It’s easy for a case to get indicted since the legal standard is so low. A common phrase in the legal community is that a prosecutor could “indict a ham sandwich.” In other words, anyone can easily be indicted. Being proven guilty at trial, though, is a much more difficult thing to do.
If a case is indicted, the defendant will have the right to a jury trial. At the jury trial, the defendant can present his own defense. If the prosecution does not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt at trial, then the defendant must be found not guilty.
How Charges Can Be Dropped After Indictment
Although nobody wants their case to be indicted, charges can still be dropped after indictment. Here are some of the common ways that indicted cases can be dismissed:
In New York State, the prosecution only has 6 months to be ready for trial. If the prosecution is not ready by then, the case can be dismissed pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law 30.30. That statute allows cases to be dismissed when a defendant’s right to a speedy trial is violated.
To be clear, the 6-month clock can be difficult to calculate, because some adjournments may be excluded by the court. An experienced NYC criminal lawyer can assess whether a speedy trial dismissal is possible in any given case.
Sometimes, the evidence presented to the grand jury is legally insufficient. When that happens, the defendant’s lawyer can file a motion with the court for the charges to be dismissed.
For instance, if a person is indicted for assault, the prosecution must provide evidence to the grand jury that injury occurred. If the grand jury were to indict the case without a sufficient showing of injury, the court could dismiss the indictment as legally insufficient.
Suppression of Evidence
Evidence can only be used against a person in court if it was legally obtained by law enforcement. If evidence is the fruit of police misconduct, the evidence could be suppressed from evidence. When evidence is suppressed, it is not shown to the jury. Sometimes, when evidence is suppressed, the prosecution will dismiss the indictment because they determine they can’t prove their case without the suppressed evidence.
For instance, if the police unlawfully search a car without probable cause and recover a gun, the gun could be suppressed from evidence. If the prosecution cannot show the jury that they recovered a gun from the defendant’s car, they probably would dismiss the case because they have insufficient evidence.
Not Guilty After Trial
Ultimately, defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Defendants always have the right to go to trial. The prosecution must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. If they don’t then, then the defendant will be found not guilty, and the indicted charges will be dismissed and sealed from your record.
If you are indicted with charges in New York City, contact Cody Warner, P.C. for a free consultation. We can discuss your case to determine your best path forward.