Felony Dismissal… How It Works
If a case has a defendant, there is also a plaintiff, which is the person or entity driving the criminal charge against the defendant. Sometimes a plaintiff might just forego their desire to pursue a charge and they might just decide to drop all the charges, which can also lead to dismissal. Obviously this outcome is a defendant’s dream come true.
A plaintiff who does this might lose their right to ever reopen the case, meaning the dismissal was ‘with prejudice.’ But other times a plaintiff retains the option to basically change their mind again and pursue the case, meaning the dismissal is ‘without prejudice.’ It’s conditional, depending on the plaintiff’s whim, and the decision to reopen the criminal case against the accused perpetrator will depend on certain terms agreed upon between plaintiff and defendant (via their lawyers, naturally) beforehand.
For example, if a defendant agrees to pay financial restitution to the plaintiff, as part of their dismissal ‘deal,’ they may have charges dismissed but only on the condition that they actually pay. If they don’t pay, the dismissal may be overturned. The plaintiff holds the upper hand because all they have to do is reopen the charges.
So in some ways, this is not an ideal situation because a defendant, though technically not found guilty of a crime, is nonetheless forced to follow through with certain conditions in order to avoid charges being pressed.
It is, if one thinks about it, similar to the definition of blackmail, i.e. to ‘demand money from (a person) in return for not revealing compromising or injurious information about that person.’ And yet, for many, this solution works better than moving on with a case that one could potentially lose. It’s basically being caught between a rock and a hard place.
A qualified attorney can help a defendant in determining the potential for a dismissal, as well as the wisdom (or not) in even wanting a dismissal if the terms are unreasonable. They can work with the plaintiff’s attorney—the prosecution—and attempt to work out a solution which involves dismissal so that the case doesn’t have to move to indictment and on to trial.
Even if a trial seems unavoidable, an attorney’s job is to do everything they can to get the case dismissed based on failure on the part of the prosecution to provide enough evidence to indict. In other words, the defendant is there to try and trip up the other guy, and visa versa. Law is a cutthroat profession, and one requires the services of an experienced professional when trying to maneuver. You’d never sit down to a high stakes card game if you even know how to play the game!
If a defendant’s attorney is going to find a way to move towards dismissal, this would be handled at the district court level in most cases.