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How to Drop Charges Against Someone in Florida

If you are wondering how to drop charges against someone in Florida, it may be because a loved one or close friend has been arrested for an incident in which you are the alleged victim. By dropping charges, you might believe your family member or friend will be immediately released from jail, and life will proceed as if nothing happened.

As the victim of a crime, you have a say in whether a prosecutor charges someone. However, your ability to influence the direction of the case is not absolute. 

Understanding your role as the victim in a case and the powers granted to prosecutors is essential to make a compelling case about why your loved one’s charges should be dropped.

What Charges Can Someone Drop?

Lawyer explaining how to drop charges against someone in Florida

It is helpful to understand how to drop charges against someone in Florida to first know what charges can be dropped at a victim’s request. The answer may surprise you. 

No victim of any crime in Florida has the unilateral authority to decide that charges should be dropped. In other words, the prosecutor, not the crime victim, is the only one with the power to drop a criminal charge in the Sunshine State.

You might wonder if the police can have charges dropped. Law enforcement has some discretion not to file charges with the local prosecutor’s office. However, once charges have been presented to the prosecutor, the case and its disposition rest in the prosecutor's hands.

Factors Considered by the State Attorney’s Office

As the victim of a crime in Florida, the state attorney’s office considers your opinions and desires along with numerous other factors in deciding whether to pursue criminal charges. Some of these other factors include:

  • The availability of other compelling evidence suggesting the defendant’s guilt;
  • The defendant’s criminal history;
  • The wishes of other victims;
  • The danger the defendant poses to the community-at-large; or
  • Whether the crime is particularly sensitive in nature, such as a crime of domestic violence or Driving Under the Influence.

Most prosecutors’ offices will attempt to prosecute a criminal case without the testimony or assistance of a reluctant victim. 

But unless the prosecutor agrees not to file charges or call you as a witness, you could still be subpoenaed to testify in the case. Refusing to appear in court or to testify could lead to serious legal consequences.

The Process of Dropping Charges in Florida

Dropping a case against someone in Florida is not as simple as telephoning the prosecutor’s office and telling the receptionist you want your charges dropped. Following certain steps can help ensure your request reaches the right person and has the greatest chance of being honored.

First, ensure you are familiar with the prosecutor’s office handling the case and contact the appropriate office. If you are unsure which prosecutor’s office to call, you may contact the law enforcement officer who investigated your case and ask which prosecutor they filed it with.

Next, speak with the prosecutor’s office and gather information. Some state attorneys' offices have a specific form to complete if you are requesting a charge be dropped. If not, ask for the name of the prosecutor handling the charges you want to drop. This will help you write a more compelling and personal request.

Remember that some prosecutor’s offices may have designated employees who work with crime victims. In these offices, you may be directed to send your request to this person instead of a prosecutor. You can rest assured that these employees are in regular communication with that office’s prosecutors and that your request will be seen by those who need to see it.

Third, write a formal request to the prosecutor indicating that you want to drop the charges in the case and your reasons for doing so. Sign your letter and include your contact information if the prosecutor has additional questions. You should not:

  • Give vague or ambiguous reasons for wanting charges dropped;
  • Be abusive or threatening with your language;
  • Complain about the police or the prosecutor’s office or
  • Threaten not to show up for hearings.

Also, do not admit fault for anything in the letter without first discussing the situation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Prosecutors can use an admission to file charges against you. Moreover, falsely claiming responsibility for a criminal act just to get charges dropped against someone else is also a crime.

Finally, if you do not receive an acknowledgment that your request has been received, follow up after a reasonable time. Some prosecutor’s offices will not send you confirmation that they received your request, so following up yourself may be the only way to assure yourself that the prosecutor saw your request.

The Impact of Dropping Charges on the Victim and Accused

Suppose the prosecutor honors your request by dropping charges against your loved one. What happens next depends on where the case is in the court system. If your loved one has been formally charged and is in jail, they will be released once the court processes the prosecutor’s order dismissing the case. This can take several hours to several days, depending on how busy the prosecutor is.

Once the case is dismissed and charges are dropped, any protective orders the court put in place will also disappear. For example, perhaps the court prohibited your loved one from possessing a firearm while the charges were pending. Once the case is dismissed, this prohibition will also go away.

A prosecutor may dismiss charges with or without prejudice. If charges are dismissed with prejudice, the prosecutor can never bring those charges for that incident against your loved one. Even if your loved one commits a new offense or you change your mind and want the case prosecuted, the prosecutor will not be able to refile the case.

If the charges are dismissed without prejudice, the prosecutor can decide to refile the case at any time before the statute of limitations expires. The prosecutor would not need to notify you or seek your permission before doing so. Some reasons why the prosecutor might decide to refile a case that has been dismissed at your request include:

  • New evidence allows the case to proceed without your cooperation;
  • The defendant obtains new criminal charges; or
  • The prosecutor decides that the interests of justice would be best served by reinstating the prosecution.

Following the dismissal, there would still be an entry on your loved one’s criminal history showing that they were arrested for the offense. They would need to go through the expungement process to have this arrest record removed.

Common Misconceptions About Dropping Charges

Lawyer confused about a misconception about dropping charges

One of the most frequently encountered misconceptions about dropping charges is that victims can decide when and if charges get dropped. This results in great confusion and anxiety when they discover that it is the prosecutor who decides whether charges are filed.

Similarly, many victims erroneously believe that they can decide whether they cooperate with the prosecutor without consequence. While you can decide not to cooperate, the prosecutor can issue a warrant for your arrest if you fail to appear in court when subpoenaed. If you do appear but refuse to testify without a valid legal ground for doing so, the court can hold you in contempt and jail or fine you.

Another common misconception is that your loved one will be released from jail the moment you request for charges to be dropped. However, just because you request charges be dropped does not mean they will be. Your loved one might continue to be jailed if they have other pending criminal matters or if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has placed a detainer, or “hold,” on your loved one.

Some people might suggest waiting until the case is scheduled for trial or until you are subpoenaed before making your request known. But can you drop charges against someone before the court date? 

In Florida, you can. In fact, the sooner you make your request known, the more likely it will be granted since the prosecutor will not have invested much time or effort in preparing the case for any hearing.

Can Domestic Violence Charges Be Dropped?

You may wonder whether Florida law treats domestic violence charges differently from other charges. Can domestic violence charges be dropped in the state?

While domestic violence charges can be dropped just as any other type of criminal charge, there is a reduced likelihood that prosecutors will want to do so. You may need to make extra effort to have your request granted. For example, the state may require you to speak with a domestic violence counselor.

The reason for this is that legislators and law enforcement alike recognize the significant damage that crimes of domestic violence can create. This harm is often visited not only on the victim but also on children and animals in the home, neighbors, and others in the community. 

As a result, Florida law takes a tough stance against crimes of domestic violence, and so do many prosecutors.

One of the chief concerns the prosecutor will have is your safety and your family's safety. If your loved one has committed similar crimes in the past, your chances of getting the present charges dismissed are low. Even if it is their first offense, the prosecutor wants to be assured that their loved one will not re-offend or jeopardize others.

As a result, your request will have a greater chance of success if you highlight counseling or other services you and your loved one intend to pursue. You may also wish to emphasize how your loved one’s absence negatively impacts your family’s emotional state and finances.

The Role of a Lawyer in Dropping Charges

When facing any type of charge, it is essential to turn to a lawyer for help. An attorney can assist both the victim and the accused in navigating the complicated legal process involved in dropping charges.

Most significantly, your attorney can help you discover the appropriate prosecutor’s office to which your request should be made. Your attorney can also help you compose a compelling but personal request that speaks to your desire and the prosecutor’s concerns.

Additionally, an attorney working on your behalf can advise you on what other legal measures may be available. For instance, if there is a chance you might incriminate yourself by testifying, your attorney can explore ways that you may be able to avoid testifying. 

Find a Lawyer to Help You Drop Charges

If you want to drop charges against someone in Florida, don’t wait to consult a seasoned criminal defense lawyer at The Denson Firm. We can use our years of experience and advocacy skills to help ensure that prosecutors hear your voice. Contact us today to schedule your free phone consultation with a Pinellas County lawyer who cares.

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