To a person with legal knowhow and experience, the signs that a criminal case is weak is almost apparent to them by glancing through the facts of the case. Contrary to popular opinion that criminal cases are hard to beat when it makes it to trial, over 90% of such cases are dropped due to these weaknesses.
In this article, we will discuss the signs that a criminal case is weak, what you should look out for and answer some relevant and related questions. Keep reading to know more.
Signs that a criminal case is weak
Most criminal cases never make it to trial and those that do, can get dismissed when some of the following signs of weakness in the prosecution’s case are present.
1. Illegal arrest
Law enforcement authorities such as the police aren’t permitted to arbitrarily arrest anyone without proper cause. That’s to say the police cannot, for example, arrest just about anyone without reason to believe such a person has committed a crime.
An illegal arrest is one of the most telling signs that a criminal case is weak. The police can’t just arrest anyone based on a hunch or gut feeling, but based on probable cause, verifiable or trustworthy information, otherwise the case will most likely be dismissed.
2. Lack of evidence
To successfully prosecute a criminal case, one thing that prosecutors need is evidence that the suspect committed the crime. Without evidence, the case is as good as dead.
For example, prosecuting someone for murder without a murder weapon or evidence placing the person at the scene at the exact time of the murder, the criminal case is weak from the get go.
Most experienced prosecutors will not even proceed with an arrest unless they have air-tight evidence linking a person to the crime because they know that without proper evidence, the charges won’t stick.
Again if a prosecution has evidence but loses it, the case will fall flat as that is one of the signs that a criminal case is weak.
3. Inadmissible Evidence
One of the signs that a criminal case is weak, is an evidence acquired illegally. For evidence to be admissible, it must have been acquired through legal means, with the proper permissions where required.
For example, if the police break into your house to retrieve information that incriminates you without properly securing a search warrant, the evidence may be inadmissible or suppressed in court which can lead to a dismissal. Of course, it is not always the case, especially when the police witness a crime being committed in your home.
Another example where an evidence may be inadmissible is when a police searches your phone without a search warrant. Whatever incriminating evidence found on the phone may be inadmissible or suppressed in court as the search is illegal and constitute a violation of your fourth amendment rights. A supreme court ruling cemented that the police need a warrant to search your phone.
4. Lack of witnesses
Witnesses play a major role in the prosecution of criminal cases, therefore signs that a criminal case is weak includes the lack of witnesses.
If nobody can corroborate that they saw you committing the crime, in the absence of video evidence, or scientific evidence such as DNA, fingerprints others placing you on the scene, the case is definitely not airtight and can easily be dismissed.
5. Wrong charges and mistakes in complaint
Another of the signs that a criminal case is weak is when the wrong charges are applied by the prosecution. Criminal defense lawyers typically are happy to see such such mistakes because they know they can easily get the case dismissed.
Other mistakes made on the criminal complaint sheet can hugely make the case a weak one. such mistakes can include:
- Incorrect capturing of the facts.
- Charges under incorrect statutes or subsections.
Once a trial proceeds, the prosecution cannot alter the complaints, and therefore can lead to the criminal charges being dismissed.
Signs your case will be dismissed
There are telling clues that a case will be dismissed barring any surprise developments. A case can either be dismissed by a prosecutor by deciding not to pursue it when the weak signs are evident or when the case makes it to court, the judge can dismiss it for being without merit.
Signs that your case will be dismissed include:
- No witnesses.
- No evidence or inadmissible evidence.
- Incorrect charges.
- Charges under wrong statutes.
- Illegal arrest.
Also if a prosecutor seem to be dragging a case in court, it could be a sign that the prosecution have no solid evidence to pin you or witnesses are refusing to testify. This could be another sign that your case will be dismissed.
How to know if a case is being built against you
There are signs that can show that a case is being built against you, but most often, you won’t know until you have been invited for questioning by the police or relevant law enforcement authority or during an arrest.
The following can give you clue that a case is being built against you:
1. You committed a crime
If you committed a crime, it is most likely that it will be reported to the police and they will investigate. In a world where CCTV is in almost every corner, if someone doesn’t see you, the all-seeing eyes of the government can. If a witness saw you, you should surely know that it’s only a mater of time.
2. Strange van outside your home
We’ve all seen it in movies where FBI officers try to intercept communication in a suspects home using modern eaves-dropping equipment in a van across the street. Well, it happens in real life.
If a case is being built against you, with a little vigilance, you will notice either being followed or being watched by vans and cars that you don’t usually see in your street. Of course this is not a telling sign, especially if you haven’t committed a crime or involved in anything illegal.
3. Insider information
If you have contacts or friends in law enforcement, you may get to know, even though technically, they’re not supposed to discuss such matters with you.
Do prosecutors want to go to trial?
Prosecutors typically do not want to go to trial if they can get a guilty plea from a suspect or can strike a plea deal with the suspect.
Since it is the duty of prosecutors to ensure justice is served, they will use whatever means possible in their bid to achieve their goal. If a case has to go to trial, they’re duty-bound to follow through to the end.
Why do prosecutors drag out cases?
If a prosecutor is dragging out a case, several factors could be accounting for it. They include:
1. Lack of evidence
If the prosecution lacks evidence strong enough to secure a conviction, the prosecution may look to drag the case to give the police time to find even more evidence to support the case.
2. Inadequate resources
When the prosecutors office is affected by resource shortage, such as under-staffing, they will take more time to be ready for each case. In such a situation, the prosecutors may try to drag out the case to enable them prepare.
The are several signs that a criminal case is weak and a good prosecutor will not even pursue such a case until they’re sure they can convince a judge that the case deserves a trial. As discussed, principal signs of a weak case include lack of evidence, illegal arrest, lack of witnesses among others.