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Can a Misdemeanor Be Dismissed in Texas?

Yes, but alleged victims cannot “drop” criminal charges in Texas.

Several kinds of dismissals are available in Texas, but only the authorities have this power. Complaining witnesses can no longer “drop” criminal cases. If alleged victims refuse to testify in assaults or other cases, prosecutors can subpoena these people and force them to testify against their will. The 1996 Warren Moon domestic assault case is a good example. However, prosecutors only use this power in rare instances.

For a Ft. Worth criminal defense lawyer, a dismissal is usually the grand prize. No conviction stains the defendant’s permanent record, and in many cases, record expungement is available in these situations. However, a pretrial or post-trial dismissal is a dismissal without prejudice, which means prosecutors can refile charges at any time, at least until the statute of limitations expires. So, even if a court dismisses charges, most defendants aren’t completely out of the woods.

Voluntary (Prosecutorial Discretion)

Prosecutors have almost absolute discretion when it comes to pressing charges. They can file or dismiss them almost at will. Prosecutors often voluntarily dismiss cases if they believe the evidence is incurably weak, they do not believe charges should have been filed in the first place, or they simply do not want to mess with the case.

Practical constraints exist. Police officers usually are not happy when prosecutors drop matters they spent so much time investigating. Relations between police officers and prosecutors are often strained, at best. Prosecutors do not want to do anything to upset the apple cart.

Some jurisdictions have mandatory prosecution policies in some cases. DWIs are a good example. Many district attorneys require prosecutors to bring charges and forbid them from dismissing them or pleading them down to reckless driving.

Pretrial Diversion

This form of dismissal is the most common kind of pretrial dismissal. Pretrial diversion is a bit like pretrial probation. If defendants comply with all program requirements, prosecutors dismiss the case.

These conditions vary in different counties, and even in different cases. These requirements usually include paying restitution (if applicable), performing community service, attending an anger management or other such class, and, perhaps most importantly, staying out of trouble with the law. Most defendants have about three months to complete these requirements.

If available, a Ft. Worth criminal defense lawyer usually recommends pretrial diversion. Jumping through a few hoops is not an admission of guilt. Furthermore, there’s no risk. If defendants do not complete the program, for whatever reason, prosecutors simply pick up where they left off.

Involuntary/Judicial Order

When judges exclude evidence at pretrial hearings, frequently because officers violated the Fourth Amendment or another Constitutional provision, prosecutors often must dismiss misdemeanor charges. They do not have enough evidence to obtain a conviction or even compel a defendant to accept a plea bargain agreement.

Judicial order dismissal comes at the end of deferred disposition probation. The defendant pleads guilty, but the judge doesn’t accept that plea. Instead, the judge deferred this part of the proceeding until probation ends. If the defendant successfully completes probation, the judge dismisses the case.

Deferred disposition in a serious felony is risky. If the defendant violates probation, the judge could sentence the defendant to anything up to the maximum. Deferred disposition in a misdemeanor isn’t as risky, since the maximum range of punishment is lower.

Count on a Hard-Working Tarrant County Criminal Defense Attorney

Several forms of dismissal are available in a Texas misdemeanor. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal law attorney in Fort Worth, contact the Law Office of Kyle Whittaker. Virtual, home, and jail visits are available.