How Does a State Attorney Decide Which Crimes to Charge


You might have been arrested, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be charged. Police officers in Florida and other states are trained to identify and articulate probable cause for crimes, but they often make errors that may lead to the charges being dropped by the assistant state attorney (ASA). For a case to be prosecuted, the state attorney must believe that there is a legitimate chance for successful prosecution.

What Makes a Criminal Case Valid

In most cases, the state attorney is not on scene or in contact with officers at the time of the arrest. There are exceptions, of course. It’s not uncommon for detectives to communicate with the state attorney while developing a case for a major crime, like homicide, sexual battery, or kidnapping. In most instances, though, the police rely on their training and knowledge of the statutes to arrest and book suspected criminals. When the state attorney receives the package, they review the probable cause affidavit, the police report, and evidence of crimes. They’re evaluating the package to measure the strength of the case and to detect any errors in the execution of the case. Here are some of the common reasons that a state attorney may decline a case:

1Invalid Stop

Police officers must have a valid reason to stop a vehicle or a person on the street. Some of these reasons include:

  • Witnessing a traffic violation
  • Observing the commission of a crime
  • Articulable suspicious behavior
  • A valid warrant
  • An authorized checkpoint
  • Observing a weapon
  • A citizen tip

If the police didn’t have a valid reason for a stop, a qualified defense attorney could get the charges dropped or easily beat them in court. Prosecutors will generally decline this type of case.

2Illegal Search

The police cannot search you without a warrant or one of the warrant exceptions. Those include a search of your person and immediate surroundings after an arrest, a tow inventory of your vehicle, exigent circumstances (usually because someone is in danger), a search of your person on suspicion that you have a weapon, and a few others. If the search was illegal, any evidence uncovered are fruits of the poisonous tree.

3Violation of Miranda Rights

If you’re in police custody, then they must read you the Miranda Warning before questioning you. You, of course, can refuse to answer questions and/or ask for an attorney, at which point, they must stop. Violations of your rights could invalidate the case.

4Lack of Evidence

In some cases.the police may charge a crime but fail to secure witness statements. On DUI investigations, a camera malfunction may delete the video evidence. There are many ways that evidence may either be lost, damaged, or made otherwise inadmissible.

5There was No Criminal Act

Surprisingly, people are arrested when they didn’t commit a crime. Police understanding of the law is often less than perfect, and occasionally, they arrest someone for an incident that they think was illegal, but isn’t.

Criminal Defense – The Other Side of the Coin

Just as the state attorney will scrutinize a criminal case against you to make sure that it’s prosecutable, a criminal defense lawyer will be looking for the same errors and omissions. In many instances, an inexperienced prosecutor may miss things that a seasoned criminal defense lawyer, like Miami criminal defense attorney Stroleny, wouldn’t. If you’ve been arrested for a crime, contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately.


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