Why Are Criminal Charges Dropped or Dismissed?

Some people who are charged with crimes do not ever enter a plea or go to trial. Instead, the charges against them are dismissed by the judge or the prosecutor. One of the first things that a criminal defense lawyer will do is to evaluate whether there might be grounds for a case to be dismissed. Some of these grounds include the following:

  • Improper charging document or criminal complaint
  • No probable cause for the arrest
  • An unconstitutional stop or search
  • Insufficient evidence that a crime was committed by the defendant
  • Unavailability of an indispensable witness for the prosecution
  • Evidence needed to prove that the defendant committed a crime has been lost

In some instances, cases will be dismissed following a loss at trial when a defendant wins on appeal. In others, the charges are dismissed long before a trial. At DiCindio Law, we evaluate clients’ criminal cases carefully to determine whether there might be grounds for their charges to be dismissed.

Lack of probable cause for an arrest

Police officers must have probable cause that people have committed crimes before the officers can arrest them. Police officers are not allowed to arrest people because they have inarticulable hunches that they may have committed crimes. The belief that an officer has must be reasonable and based on facts. For example, if an officer sees a person pulling a gun from his or her waistband, he or she would likely have probable cause for an arrest. By contrast, if an officer sees someone who the officer thinks looks shifty but who is not doing anything that amounts to a crime, he or she would not have probable cause to arrest that person. If the officer still arrested the shifty person and subsequently charged him or her with a crime, the charges would likely be dismissed because of the lack of probable cause. However, if the prosecutor later found other evidence that shows that the person committed the crime, the charges could be re-filed.

Improper charging document

Officers must sign charging documents under oath. State laws dictate the types of information that must be contained in a charging document. If a complaint does not comply with the legal requirements because of a substantial omission or error, the prosecutor is not allowed to fix it to give to the court. If an officer writes an improper charging document and subsequently becomes unavailable, the charges against the defendant may have to be dismissed.

Unconstitutional stop or search

Police officers are only allowed to stop vehicles or people when they have reasonable suspicion to believe that a crime or traffic violation is being committed. For example, an officer can stop a car if a person is speeding but cannot just randomly stop a car because of a person’s race. If an officer stops a vehicle or a person when the officer does not have a reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed, the stop is unconstitutional.

Police officers are only allowed to search houses, cars, and people when they have search warrants unless an exception applies. Police can search people without search warrants when the searches are incident to their arrests. They can also search homes in exigent circumstances such as when they hear screams and violent sounds coming from inside. Officers can also search people when they have reasonable beliefs that the people are carrying deadly weapons. Finally, police can search homes, cars, or people when they are given consent to do so.

If an officer conducts a warrantless search when none of the exceptions apply, any evidence that the officer uncovers during the search cannot be used against the person who is charged. If the court rules that a search or stop was illegal and that the evidence is inadmissible, the defense attorney can ask the court to dismiss the case because the prosecution does not have evidence to prove that the defendant committed the crime.

Lack of evidence

To prove a case against a defendant, the prosecutor must be able to present sufficient evidence to the judge or a grand jury to establish probable cause that the defendant committed a crime. There must be enough evidence to demonstrate a factual and objective basis for believing that a crime was committed by the defendant. If the judge or a grand jury fail to find probable cause, the charges will be dismissed. Prosecutors may also dismiss cases in which they have very limited evidence on their own.

Unavailable witnesses and lost evidence

Charges may be dismissed when key witnesses are unavailable to testify or when some important physical evidence is lost. This may happen because the prosecutor may be unable to prove that a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If a witness asserts his or her Fifth Amendment rights because testifying might incriminate him or her or if a witness dies or disappears, the prosecutor might not have enough evidence to prove the charges against the defendant.

In some cases, the identification of the defendant as the person who committed the criminal offense is key to the case. When the key witness is unable to identify the defendant, the prosecutor may not have enough remaining evidence to secure a conviction. When a witness says that he or she is uncertain that the defendant is the person who committed the crime, the prosecutor might decide to dismiss the charges.

Defense attorneys sometimes challenge the method the police used to obtain a witness’s identification of a defendant. For example, if the police used a photo lineup with six people, and the defendant was the only person depicted who was the race of the person who committed the crime, the judge may find that the lineup was improper and exclude the identification testimony.

Prosecutorial discretion

Prosecutors occasionally agree to dismiss criminal charges when extenuating circumstances exist. For example, a prosecutor might dismiss minor charges when questions exist about the facts of what occurred. The charges can be dismissed without prejudice, which would allow the prosecutors to refile the charges later within a specific period if new evidence of the defendant’s guilt is discovered.

In rare cases, a prosecutor might agree to dismiss the charges against a defendant when the victim asks him or her to do so. However, victims do not have the power to determine whether a case should move forward. The state is responsible for pressing charges. However, a prosecutor does have the discretion to determine what a just outcome would be. For example, if a sexual assault victim would undergo severe emotional harm by testifying about what happened to him or her and asks the prosecutor to dismiss the charges against the person who was responsible for the assault, the prosecutor might agree to do so.

Dismissals after successful appeals

When a person loses his or her criminal case at trial, he or she can appeal the verdict. If the appellate court finds that prejudicial error happened in the trial, the verdict may be vacated and the case may then be sent back to the lower court for a new trial. If the prosecutor believes that he or she will not succeed in a new trial, he or she may dismiss the case rather than trying it again.

Appeals court finds insufficient evidence to support the verdict

In some cases, the appellate court will reverse a jury verdict because the jury did not have sufficient evidence to support the finding of guilt. In most cases, the defense attorney will file a motion asking the judge to enter a judgment of acquittal that the judge denies. The defense attorney can make this argument again on appeal and may be successful. When that occurs, the appellate court will direct the trial court to enter a judgment of acquittal.

Lack of jurisdiction

Courts must have jurisdiction to hear the cases that are before them. If a court learns that it does not have jurisdiction to hear a particular case, it will dismiss it.

Contact DiCindio Law

If you have been charged with a crime, getting help from an experienced criminal defense attorney is important. A knowledgeable lawyer from DiCindio Law can review your case and determine whether there might be grounds for the charges to be dismissed. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling 610-430-3535.

Heroin Overdose Cases

A major focus of law-enforcement recent years and especially in recent months has been in preventing heroin overdose deaths from occurring. Heroin overdose cases have become an epidemic that law-enforcement, legislators and the communities at large are trying to combat. With the vicious effects of a heroin overdose, people must act fast. It is not uncommon to have two users together when one of them overdoses. Many times, people would be fearful to report the overdoses for fear of prosecution in the matter – and people would lose their lives. Recently, legislation has been enacted which is aimed at ending these types of situations and deaths and stopping the risk of certain criminal charges in these situations.

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Contact Chester County Criminal Lawyer Mike DiCindio to discuss your case today

The recently enacted law permits individuals to call law-enforcement, emergency medical services or 911 and report a heroin overdose. If they provide their name and identifying information and stay with the individual who is overdosing they will be immune for prosecution for certain minor offenses (those are enumerated in the amended law) and the individual who overdoses is also immune. It should not be viewed and is not intended to be viewed as a license to commit illegal conduct, instead, it is aimed at helping to minimize the frequency of deaths from heroin overdoses.

If you or a loved one has been arrested or prosecuted in the circumstance that seems similar to the one described above contact criminal defense lawyer DiCindio Law, LLC today law speak in detail to Mike DiCindio about the facts and circumstances and determine whether or not the amended legislation applies to your specific situation.


 

The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes that may be relevant.  The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments.  These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances.  It is intended solely for informational purposes.

Michael D. DiCindio, Esq. is a West Chester criminal defense lawyer who represents individuals accused of crimes throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale

Search Warrant – What is required and how is one challenged

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Contact Chester County Criminal Defense and DUI lawyer Mike DiCindio today.

Drug cases, gun cases and many other countless cases in the criminal system begin with a search warrant. At times, some of these cases also end with a search warrant. If a search warrant is involved in a criminal case, a criminal defense attorney should review the warrant in depth and with a fine tooth comb for all potential flaws and/or legal deficiencies.

Before a search warrant is approved, a law enforcement officer must allege facts in an affidavit of probable cause. The evidence and facts in support of a warrant must lead to the conclusion that probable cause exists to believe the items the officers are looking for are connected with criminal activity and that the items will be found in the place that to be searched under the warrant. If a neutral judge finds that probable cause exists – the search warrant will be approved.

Within the request in the warrant – the items/person being sought and the place to be searched must be described with particularity. Meaning, there should be nothing left to the discretion of the officers when they are describing the “things” to be seized AND it should give the officers ample information and description in order to allow them to identify the things and places to be searched and seized. “General” warrants are frowned upon in our system.

As a criminal defense attorney, it is important that whenever a warrant is involved in a matter, all portions and documents of the warrant must be obtain and reviewed thoroughly. If any of the requirements of the rules and constitutional protections governing the issuance of warrants seem to be lacking a motion should be filed to address this matter before the Court. If the warrant is found to be legally deficient or defective and no exception to the warrant requirement is present – the remedy may be suppression of the evidence seized.

If you or a loved one has a criminal case involving a search warrant, call West Chester Criminal Defense Lawyer Mike DiCindio to schedule your free consultation.


 

The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes that may be relevant.  The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments.  These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances.  Please contact DiCindio Law for a consultation and to discuss what law is relevant to your case.

Mike DiCindio is a criminal defense lawyer who represents individuals accused of crimes throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale as well as in Montgomery County, Lancaster County, Delaware County, Philadelphia County, Bucks County and Berks County.

PBT Tests – When can the results be used against you?

 

A “PBT test”, or preliminary breath test, is a device that allows an officer to test a person’s blood alcohol concentration without transporting them for a formal breath or blood test. These PBT’s are typically utilized by officers in DUI, drunk driving and underage drinking cases. While commonly used and accepted in practice, on scene by law enforcement officers, the results from these PBT devices have been found to be inadmissible in Court. There are certain limited times when they will be admissible – when specific requirements are met. (Which is not common) Also, they are permitted for certain pre-arrest investigative purposes.

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Contact West Chester DUI lawyer Mike DiCindio to discuss your case

In 2009 the Court in Commonwealth v. Brigidi made clear that the results of PBT tests may be admissible in certain cases (underage drinking matters). This was only if the results were obtained by a device that was approved and listed in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Further, there was the added requirement of the device being calibrated and correctly checked for accuracy.

In the real world application, PBT tests are typically used for two major things. First, in underage drinking prosecutions, in order to determine if the person underage was consuming an alcoholic beverage. Second, in DUI and drunk driving cases when the officer administers a PBT at the scene of the vehicle stop in order to develop probable cause that the driver of the vehicle was under the influence of alcohol. This would then be a factor in determining if the individual should be arrested and transported for a formal breath or blood test.

If you have been charged with DUI, drunk driving or underage drinking and a PBT was administered by the officers conducting the investigation, it is important to have a skilled criminal defense attorney examine the evidence and represent you in Court in order to protect against inadmissible evidence being used against you.

In West Chester and the Chester County area, law enforcement officers utilize PBT tests regularly. A skilled and knowledgeable Chester County DUI and criminal defense attorney should be contacted if you or a loved one is in this position.

Contact Mike DiCindio today to schedule your free initial consultation and go to the DUI and Underage Drinking sections of the DiCindio Law website to read more about these crimes.

 


 

The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes that may be relevant.  The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments.  These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances.  Please contact DiCindio Law for a consultation and to discuss what law is relevant to your case.

Mike DiCindio is a criminal defense lawyer who represents individuals accused of crimes throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale as well as in Montgomery County, Lancaster County, Delaware County, Philadelphia County, Bucks County and Berks County.

 

 

Holiday Season = Parties, Drinks and DUI Checkpoints

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If arrested at a Chester County DUI checkpoint contact Mike DiCindio Chester County DUI Lawyer

With the holiday season fast approaching it is important to be aware that police officers in Chester County and elsewhere in the surrounding areas will be conducting DUI checkpoints. Police utilize sobriety checkpoints in their effort to enforce the drunk driving laws in the state, arrest impaired drivers and keep the roads safer for others. While they may seem completely discretionary and random,  in Pennsylvania sobriety checkpoints must conform to judicially created guidelines in order to be constitutional.

When the police decide that they want to conduct a DUI checkpoint, there is a process and procedure that must be followed. The process and guidelines for a constitutionally acceptable DUI checkpoint are known as the Tarbert – Blouse guidelines. This name comes from the two cases in which the guidelines were first announced. The goal of the guidelines was to safeguard against completely arbitrary roadblocks. Further, it makes sure that constitutional rights are not infringed upon at any time during the course of the DUI checkpoint.

The five guidelines that were adopted by the Court in the Blouse case that will allow a checkpoint to be constitutionally appropriate are as follows:

(1) the vehicle stop must be brief and must not include a physical search;

(2) sufficient warning of the existence of the checkpoint is a MUST;

(3) the decision to conduct a checkpoint, as well as the decisions as to time and place for the checkpoint, must be subject to prior administrative approval;

(4) the choice of time and place for the checkpoint must be based on local experience as to where and when intoxicated drivers are likely to be traveling; and

(5) the decision as to which vehicles to stop at the checkpoint must be established by administratively pre-fixed, objective standards, and must not be left to the unfettered discretion of the officers at the scene.
                                                        (See, Commonwealth v. Worthy,  957 A.2d 720 (PA. 2008))

Law enforcement must keep the records of compliance with all of these guidelines. It is not uncommon that while running a DUI checkpoint, some of the guidelines may be missed or not followed. For example, if it is a particularly busy night and the DUI checkpoint has created a large amount of traffic, police cannot arbitrarily begin to allow cars to pass the checkpoint without being stopped – there must be an established “choke point” where, if traffic reaches, the police will then allow cars to pass the checkpoint until it has cleared. Any of these missteps will turn a vehicle stop into an unconstitutional vehicle stop.

If you have been arrested for DUI as a result of a sobriety checkpoint vehicle stop, contact Mike DiCindio directly in order to discuss your case.

 


The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes that may be relevant.  The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments.  These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances.  Please contact DiCindio Law for a consultation and to discuss what law is relevant to your case.

Mike DiCindio is a criminal defense lawyer who represents individuals accused of crimes throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale as well as in Montgomery County, Lancaster County, Delaware County, Philadelphia County, Bucks County and Berks County.

 

 

“Per se DUI in Pennsylvania”

Chester County DUI Lawyer

Contact West Chester DUI lawyer and Criminal Defense Lawyer Mike DiCindio

Under the current Pennsylvania DUI Laws, the prosecution does not always need to prove that a driver was “impaired” or “intoxicated” while operating a motor vehicle in order to prove they were guilty of DUI. The Pennsylvania DUI statute as it currently stands provides for what are called, “per se” levels – levels of drugs or alcohol, that if found in the blood within two hours of operating a motor vehicle, one is guilty of the offense of DUI.

In Pennsylvania the legal limit for alcohol is .08%. Therefore, if someone is found to have a blood alcohol content of .08% or above, within two hours of operating a motor vehicle, he/she is guilty of “per se” DUI whether or not impaired or manifesting the signs of intoxication.

While this may be true by the letter of the law, in a practical application there are very few situations where someone should be charged with DUI without manifesting signs of intoxication or consumption. This is because before an officer is permitted to transport someone for chemical testing, there must be some facts or indications that provide a legal justification to take him/her for such a test – the blood test must be supported by a sufficient level of legal suspicion. (This is in conjunction with the implied consent law discussed in a previous post)

When someone is charged with a DUI, it is crucial to have an experienced lawyer thoroughly analyze the facts and circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest before taking any action or waiving your rights to contest the charges. There is often an argument to be made that the police officer was not legally justified in taking a breath or blood test in the first place.

Contact Mike DiCindio directly to schedule your free consultation today. 

***This blog is made available by the law firm publisher for educational purposes and to provide general information, not to provide specific legal advice.  By reading, youunderstand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. The blog should not be used, nor is it meant to be, as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney. This blog also does not discuss all aspects of the topics involved or the bill that has been placed into effect***

Small Amount of Marijuana in Philadelphia

Possessing Small Amount of Marijuana now only a fine in Philadelphia

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Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Mike DiCindio to discuss your case today

New legislation in Philadelphia has gone into effect today minimizing the penalties of being caught with a small amount of marijuana.   The goal behind the legislation is aimed at easing the punishment of offenders of this kind while also lowering the burden police officers and prosecutors have experienced in aggressively enforcing the crimes code when it comes to small amount of marijuana charges.

An offender who is found in possession of a small amount of marijuana will now face a minimal fine and one who is found using marijuana will be subject to a slightly higher, yet still minimal fine.   Once the identification of the individual is ascertained, by showing ID, the interaction between police and an accused is supposed to stop. Still, if no valid ID is found on the person, they can be held until their identity is determined and then must be released.  This new bill does not legalize marijuana, but instead decriminalizes certain levels of possession and use and minimalizes what law enforcement officers may do when faced with those circumstances.

This legislation is bound to raise questions in enforcement, prosecution and defense of cases that either involve a small amount of marijuana and/or cases that begin with marijuana as the inception of the contact between an individual and a police officer.

For one, many cases start with police officers locating a small amount of marijuana and using that as reasonable suspicion or probable cause to further investigate and detain an individual. This new bill may raise many challenges to the search and seizure of individuals in the coming months, causing the Courts in the county to interpret whether officers may still use this/these circumstances as reasonable suspicion or probable cause to further detain and search.

 It is too early to determine the true impact this change will have on the implementation of the laws in Philadelphia County. Still, it is something that criminal defense lawyers and law enforcement must be aware of when prosecuting or defending a case that involves a small amount of marijuana.

Contact Mike DiCindio today to discuss your case today.

***This blog is made available by the law firm publisher for educational purposes and to provide general information, not to provide specific legal advice.  By reading, you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. The blog should not be used, nor is it meant to be, as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney. This blog also does not discuss all aspects of the topics involved or the bill that has been placed into effect***