Can Charges Be Dropped After Indictment? The Good and Bad News

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Criminal Records | September 14, 2022

Man in the middle wonders can charges be dropped after indictment while looking at an indictment document being held by a police officer and imagining the prosecutor throwing the charges away in the garbage behind him.

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Individuals who have been charged with a crime often wonder can charges be dropped after indictment?

For this answer, there’s good news, and bad news.

Although the answer depends on factors like the circumstances of the charges and the state where the charges were brought, it’s not always a one-size-fits-all answer.

The good news is that it is entirely possible for charges to be dropped after an indictment, however if a person’s main concern is how the charges will impact a future background check, there’s a strong possibility that this will still show up on most criminal history checks. This is because of the way the legal system works.

But, anyone can skip the questions and get a free criminal background check on themselves to find out what shows up on a background check, and do dismissed charges show up on a background check?

How Can Charges Be Dropped? The Difference Between Charged Vs Indicted

The US court system1 is notoriously complex and figuring out if your specific charges can be dropped can be a tricky thing to figure out. Factors like the state or even county that the charges were filed in could have an impact on your chances, as well the stage in the legal process.

The first source of confusion for many individuals is the distinction between being charged for a crime and being indicted for a crime. The difference depends entirely on who filed the charges.

Related Reading: If charges are dismissed do you have a criminal record?

For many crimes, law enforcement may have caught the individual in the act of committing the crime. If this is the case the law enforcement officers will present the circumstances and evidence to the prosecutor who will then file charges against the individual for the crime. This is the basic process for when an individual gets charged with a crime.

US Courts screenshot page of law enforcment, grand jury, and prosecution forms.

However, criminal cases aren’t always so simple. In many cases there may be evidence that a crime took place and that a particular individual committed it, such as physical evidence or witness statements. In this case, law enforcement can’t simply arrest an individual and file charges against them. Instead the law enforcement officers will present the evidence to the prosecutor who will then present the evidence to a grand jury.

Related Reading: How to find out if criminal charges are filed

A grand jury is similar to a trial jury and is generally made up of citizens. However, while a trial jury will decide on someone’s guilt, a grand jury only decides if there is evidence that suggests a crime took place.

US Courts website screenshot of Criminal cases, explaining hte judicial process.

Should a grand jury choose to indict an individual based on evidence presented by the prosecutor, then the individual will be arrested and the criminal proceedings will begin as normal.

Regardless of whether the individual was charged or indicted, in many ways the end result is the same, an individual is formally accused of a crime by the courts. There are some minor details that will vary based on jurisdiction, however this is the general process when it comes to charging or indicting an individual.

Office of US Attorneys screenshot with yellow arrows pointing to charging processes outlined by law.

So, can charges be dropped after indictment? Absolutely, whether or not a case can be dropped has nothing to do with whether or not the individual was charged or indicted. If new evidence comes to light that points to the fact that the individual was nowhere near the scene of the alleged crime, then the charges would likely be dropped. There are tons of different ways that charges can be dropped after an indictment.

Related Reading: Do dropped charges show up on a background check?

Some of the most common are listed below.

Can Charges Be Dropped After Indictment Due to Evidence Problems?

Issues involving evidence are probably the most common reason for charges to be dropped.

Evidence that has been tampered with, falsified or is simply not strong enough to tie an individual to a particular crime are all common reasons for charges to get dropped.

Sometimes new evidence will be found that will help to prove that it is unlikely the individual was involved with the crime, such as an alibi.

Issues With the Arrest or Investigation

There are extensive laws in the United States aimed to protect the rights of citizens. If any of these basic rights were violated as part of the arrest of the individual or the investigation that led to the arrest, then the charges can be dropped.

Related Reading: How to look up charges on someone

This doesn’t always have to be extreme and can even involve things like law enforcement failing to explain the rights of the accused during the arrest, or an unlawful search that led to an arrest.

Resources

Just as not every crime carries the same punishment, prosecutors and other legal staff don’t prioritize every case the same. If a minor crime was committed, it’s possible the charges will be dropped because the prosecution simply doesn’t believe it is worth the time and resources to seek a conviction. Obviously, more serious crimes will always be pursued but it is possible to simply luck out when a minor criminal offense has been committed.

Cooperation With Law Enforcement

In many situations, cooperating with law enforcement can be a way to get charges dropped. Certain crimes may not be of much importance to law enforcement, but if the individual can give information that leads to the arrest of someone involved in more serious crimes, investigators may be able to work out a deal in which the charges will be dropped in exchange for information. This is another situation where having proper legal counsel is important as an attorney can help facilitate the deal and ensure that both ends of the deal are held up.

Can Charges Be Dropped After an Indictment?

Many people are wondering can charges be dropped after indictment? Are mainly concerned with how their record will be affected. Unfortunately, most criminal history searches that are performed as part of a pre-employment background check will show charges and indictments. Having an indictment on your record is rarely a disqualifying offense for many jobs.

Related Reading: What happens when someone presses charges against you?

This is a great example why it is always a good idea to perform a background check on yourself before applying for a job. This way, individuals can know what to expect and in the case of having charges or an indictment on their record, can have a response prepared in case the hiring manager has questions about their criminal history findings.

Can Charges Be Dropped After Grand Jury Indictment?

Regardless of how the charges were brought, they can almost always be dropped, whether it was a grand jury indictment or charges brought by a prosecutor. Any evidence that is brought up that can easily prove an individuals lack of involvement in a crime is cause for charges to be dropped, regardless of the stage in the legal trial.

Can Federal Charges Be Dropped After an Indictment?

Can charges be dropped after indictment if they were federal charges? Federal charges2 can be dropped the same as local charges. However, for many crimes, the prosecutor may not even bring charges until there is sufficient evidence of involvement in a crime. Although not impossible to get charges dropped in this situation, law enforcement will generally not bother bringing charges that will get dropped soon after.

Can Charges Be Dropped After Sentencing?

It is possible for charges to be dropped after sentencing. This is usually referred to as an appeal and there are several different reasons for an appeal to result in overturning the results of a trial. Often it will involve new evidence coming to light, but can also happen for reasons such as an unfair trial or something similar.

Can Dropped Charges Be Reinstated?

Yes, just as charges can be dropped as a result of new evidence coming to light they can be reinstated for the same reason. This isn’t a common occurrence but does happen, especially in more complex cases where law enforcement may be gathering evidence for months or even years at a time.

What Happens If Charges Are Dropped Before Court?

If charges are dropped before court then the trial simply will not proceed. With no charges there is no case and thus there is no need for a trial to occur.

Related Reading: How to check for charges against you online

Oftentimes, some charges will be dropped before trial but not all. In this case the trial will proceed but only regarding the charges that are still standing.

Once Charges Are Dropped Can They Be Reopened?

Yes, dropped charges can be reopened if new evidence comes to light that points to an individual being involved with a crime. Law enforcement tend to only file charges when they are confident of a conviction, so if a charge was dropped and then reopened, it is extremely unlikely that it will be possible to get the charge dropped again.

Can Charges Be Dropped After Arraignment?

It is possible for charges to be dropped after an arraignment hearing. Although rare, it is entirely possible in most states for a judge to decide to drop the charges upon seeing evidence or the nature of the crime.

How Can Charges Be Dropped Before Trial? (All 50 States)

The exact legal situation that allows for charges to be dropped before a trial takes place depends on the state. Each state has slightly different circumstances that must be met in order for charges to be dropped. Use the list below to understand the exact criminal procedure involving dropping charges in each state.

State Where Charges Are FiledHow To Get Charges Dropped After Indictment?
How to Get Charges Dropped in AlabamaAlabama Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped AlaskaAlaska Rules of Criminal Procedure 
How to Get Charges Dropped ArizonaArizona Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped ArkansasArkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped CaliforniaCalifornia Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped ColoradoColorado Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped ConnecticutConnecticut Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped DelawareDelaware Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped FloridaFlorida Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped GeorgiaGeorgia Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped HawaiiHawaii Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped IdahoIdaho Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped IllinoisIllinois Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped IndianaIndiana Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped IowaIowa Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped KansasKansas Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped KentuckyKentucky Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped LouisianaLouisiana Rules of Criminal Procedure 
How to Get Charges Dropped MaineMaine Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped MarylandMaryland Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped MassachusettsMassachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped MichiganMichigan Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped MinnesotaMinnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped MissouriMissouri Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped MontanaMontana Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped NebraskaNebraska Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped NevadaNevada Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped New HampshireNew Hampshire Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped New JerseyNew Jersey Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped New MexicoNew Mexico Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped New YorkNew York Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped North CarolinaNorth Carolina Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped North DakotaNorth Dakota Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped OhioOhio Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped OklahomaOklahoma Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped OregonOregon Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped PennsylvaniaPennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure
RHow to Get Charges Dropped Rhode IslandRhode Island Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped South CarolinaSouth Carolina Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped South DakotaSouth Dakota Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped TennesseeTennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped TexasTexas Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped UtahUtah Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped VermontVermont Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped VirginiaVirginia Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped WashingtonWashington Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped West VirginiaWest Virginia Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped WisconsinWisconsin Rules of Criminal Procedure
How to Get Charges Dropped WyomingWyoming Rules of Criminal Procedure

Getting charged with a crime can be scary and something that affects you for the rest of your life. Luckily, not all is lost and being able to answer questions like: “Can charges be dropped after indictment” will help individuals through the legal process.

Frequently Asked Questions About Can Charges Be Dropped After Indictment

Can You Drop Charges After Sentencing?

Yes, charges can be “dropped,” after sentencing. This is usually referred to as an appeal and the results of the criminal trial will essentially be overturned if there is new evidence that exonerates the individual accused.

What Happens When Charges Are Dropped Against You?

When charges are dropped then all criminal proceedings stop and little else happens. For the individual who was initially charged, the entire criminal process is essentially over and they are considered innocent and cleared of any wrongdoing.

Indicted vs Charged

The difference between indicted and charged depends on who filed the charges. Charges are brought by a prosecutor as a result of law-enforcement evidence, whereas an indictment is decided by a grand jury after viewing evidence presented by the prosecutor.

How To Get Charges Dropped Before Court Date?

How to get charges dropped before a court date will first depend on the state that the charges were filed in. Each state has different circumstances that allow for charges to be dropped, usually involving evidence being insufficient or new evidence that proves the individual was not involved.

Can Charges Be Brought Back Up After Being Dismissed?

Yes, charges can be brought back just as they can be dropped. If new evidence is found that suggests an individual may have committed a crime, the charges will be brought again.

Signs Your Case Will Be Dismissed

An attorney will generally be the one that can tell an individual if their case has a chance of being dismissed. Usually, they will examine the evidence that led to the charges in the first place and decide if seeking a dismissal is a good idea or if resources should be used to prepare for a criminal trial or plea deal instead.

How Often Are Felony Charges Dropped?

Felony charges being dropped is not an uncommon occurrence. Charges can be brought against the wrong individual or brought to soon, before all the evidence has been gathered. However, law enforcement doesn’t want their charges dropped and will usually only file charges when they are confident of gaining a conviction.

Case Dismissed Because of Police Report

A case being dismissed because of a police report is entirely possible. Mistakes can be made on a police report such as something as simple as switching names or confusing basic facts. Another possibility is the police report may point to the fact that proper procedure was not followed, such as an unlawful search taking place.

How To Get Felony Charges Dropped?

There are a number of ways to get felony charges dropped. The best thing to do is to consult with an attorney to see if seeking a dismissal is possible.

On What Grounds Can a Case Be Dismissed?

Cases can be dismissed for a number of reasons. Most often, evidence issues and procedural issues will be grounds for a case to be dismissed.

Can a Judge Dismiss a Case Before Trial?

In many states, judges will have the power to dismiss the case before trial. However, this is a fairly rare occurrence and some states do not give judges the power to dismiss a case at certain points in the trial.

How Long Does It Take for Charges To Be Dropped?

The legal process can be notoriously lengthy but when it comes to charges getting dropped, the process usually happens relatively quickly if there is sufficient reason for the charges to be dropped.


References

1Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts on behalf of the Federal Judiciary. (2022). Home. United States Courts. Retrieved July 8, 2022, from <https://www.uscourts.gov/>

2United States Government. (2022). Charging. The United States Department of Justice. Retrieved July 8, 2022, from <https://www.justice.gov/usao/justice-101/charging>

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