If you've been charged with a crime and you believe the chief witness or "victim" didn't report the facts accurately, the next few steps you take could determine your future. To understand how to fight wrongful or inaccurate accusations, you'll need to understand the basic criminal court process.
Read below to learn more about the criminal trial process and how you can fight your charges.
Who Decides If Your Case Goes to Trial
Whether or not your case goes to trial is decided by the prosecutor. He or she will often only have the police report of your case to go on. The police report will have very basic information, and in the best of all possible worlds, it will be objective, factual, and accurate.
In the normal world, a police report can overstate certain minor facts, fail to mention important facts that would exonerate you, or otherwise portray the situation inaccurately. At this point, defendants often trust in their ability to secure an acquittal based on the obviously-untrue facts. However, trials (even "open-and-shut" cases) are costly and stressful.
How to Get Charges Dismissed
One of the chief advantages of an experienced attorney is their relationship with the District Attorney's office. Having open lines of communication means your attorney can negotiate and work with the prosecutor, address fact-based issues, or use evidence to prove that you couldn't possibly be guilty of the charges being brought against you by the witness(es).
Criminal defense attorneys conduct independent investigations in order to prove your side of the story—if they find evidence that negates the events as told by the police report, it could convince the prosecutor to drop charges against you. Speaking with the arresting officer or explaining the situation informally could secure the same result (although this sort of informal process is rare).
In other cases, waiting may be enough for your charges to be dismissed. Prosecutors may conduct an investigation that finds insufficient evidence to press charges. However, knowing this for sure means you're waiting for months to hear back from the local DA—and you should choose a lawyer to start building your case well before then.
The Bottom Line When It Comes to Criminal Charges
What you have to understand is that prosecutors have two jobs: ensure that crime is being punished by the criminal justice system, and ensure that the cases flowing through the system aren't wasting resources (the clerk's time, the judge's time, the city's funds, etc.). If your case is far too "unwinnable" or simply doesn't have good enough evidence to warrant a trial, the prosecutor will want to avoid it.
That's where your attorney comes in. It's his or her job to prove that your case isn't worth trying. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't—it comes down to the prosecutor's decision, like we said earlier. But when the stakes are this high, you need to start fighting charges early and aggressively.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can be the difference between a months-long process and simply dropping the charges early on.