Cases That Do Not Go To Trial

Most criminal cases do not go to trial. Many times, the State and the defendant enter into a plea bargain agreement. There are many benefits to the State when plea agreements are reached. This includes (1) the certainty of a conviction of the defendant, (2) conservation of resources (it takes less time for attorneys, witnesses and judges), and (3) less trauma for the victim(s). Many times, one or more charges against a defendant may be dismissed in return for the defendant’s plea of guilty to one or more charges pending against him or her. In other situations, the State may agree not to seek a maximum penalty or not to pursue other charges if the defendant pleads guilty. Sometimes, the prosecuting attorney assigned to a case will permit a plea that appears favorable to a defendant because there is not sufficient proof to establish the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This does not necessarily mean the prosecuting attorney does not think the defendant is guilty. It is a result of the analysis of a case from the point of view of what legal proof is available to use in court.

Cases may be dropped or dismissed from time to time. There are various reasons for the State to request dismissal of charges, including plea bargain agreements, or the fact that there is little or no admissible evidence to prove the criminal act. There may be times when a court will dismiss charges, even over the objection of the prosecuting attorney, because the court finds there was not sufficient evidence to convict the defendant.

Criminal cases, unlike civil cases, are not controlled by the victim. Once criminal charges are filed, the State technically becomes the victim and the prosecuting attorney’s duty is to represent the State. It is important for victims to remember that the duty of the prosecuting attorney is to represent the State by seeking justice. There are times when a prosecuting attorney may feel that justice is not served by continuing a prosecution. In that case, it is the duty of the prosecuting attorney to decline to prosecute even when the victim does not agree, by the same token, judges have a duty to require the State to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. When the State has failed to do this, the judge should dismiss the case.