Can Charges Be Dropped Before Court in Canada?
Having a full criminal conviction on your permanent record can impact your life. The process to get to that point is straightforward, though. You take part of the judicial system, being arrested and charged with the crime, go to trial and be convicted of the crime (if you are indeed guilty) and suffer the consequences.
However, not every Canadian that is charged with a crime will face a plea or trial. In some cases, the accused might not even be able to go to Court, never having to endure the stresses and pressures of dealing with a trial. This is because the charges against the person are dropped or dismissed. And the same can happen to you.
But how does this happen and why? Let’s take a deeper look at dropping or dismissing charges before a court date.
In many cases, the charges can end up being dismissed by the Court. This means that the that the judge or prosecutor has elected not to let a case go any further in Court, as it will not lead to any desirable outcome.
This can only occur when the defence lawyer (or domestic violence or sex assault lawyer, depending on the case) reviews the evidence of the case, determinng on whether there are any grounds for the case to be dismissed, before presenting it to the Court.
Some reasons that the case can be dismissed can include:
- Lack of probable cause of arrest or illegal search or stop (There must be reasonable belief based on objective factual circumstances that the arrest or stop and search was legitimate)
- Improper criminal complaint (If there is something wrong with the criminal document that was submitted to the Court)
- Lack of evidence to prove that the accused committed the crime
- Loss of evidence or unavailable witnesses (Substantial evidence that proves the crime was committed by the accused)
In some cases, the Crown prosecutor themselves will dismiss the case, if they believe the accused has a clean record (particularly for a minor charge) or has concerns about the police investigation or evidence. They can also dismiss charges without “without prejudice”, which means that they can file the case at a later date, usually within a specific time period.
After the arrest, the accused will have to attend a hearing, where the charges are officially filed and a plea of innocent or guilty are entered, before a trial date is set. It’s at this point that the case can be dropped.
In many cases, the case is dropped by the Crown prosecution, and it can be due to multiple factors, including:
- Insufficient evidence (There is not enough evidence to convict the accused)
- Procedural issues (When police poorly file or conduct investigations and arrests)
- Lack of resources (When other more important cases are required and therefore, there are not enough resources to support this case)
- The victim wants to dismiss the charges (Such as in cases of domestic violence or abuse)
- Willingness to cooperate (If the accused helped the prosecution with other crimes or their own)
- The defense has a stronger case (The defence lawyer has enough evidence to win the trial, and thus weaken the prosecution’s case)
- New evidence conclusive proves the accused was the not perpetrator
The dropping of charges can happen anytime before the Court date.
The Importance of a Defence Lawyer
The most important thing to note in both cases is that even if no conviction has been recorded, evidence of an arrest, fingerprinting and even charges filed may still be present, meaning that there is a chance that charges being re-filed in the future, or used in relation to another case.
Either way, whether to protect yourself in the future or getting charges dismissed or dropped, it can only happen if you have the right legal support around you. That’s why it’s important to ensure you hire a respectable, well-recognized and winning lawyer who has experience in your case.
We recommend Dunlap Law, one of Calgary and Edmonton’s leading criminal defence lawyers. With a high-record of success, 26 years of experience and a caring nature to help all clients, they’re ready to support your defence.