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How to get the CPS to drop charges before your court date

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The prospect of facing a criminal trial is an understandably daunting one. It is important to remember, however, that even where you have been charged with a crime, you will not necessarily need to stand trial – especially if you have the right legal strategy. However, if you are hoping to have the CPS drop charges, you will always need an excellent legal team.

Click here if you have not been charged. We can attempt to get the Police to drop the charges

In some cases, it may be possible to negotiate with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for you to accept a lesser charge, avoiding the need for a trial. The CPS could agree to you receiving a caution in some cases. However, for defendants facing a trial, the best outcome is obviously to have the charges against them dropped or dismissed altogether.

At JD Spicer Zeb, we are experts in having the CPS drop charges against our clients. You can instruct us on a Legal Aid or bespoke Private basis to advise you and consult one of our specialist lawyers to make what are known as written representations or submissions to the CPS.

As you might expect, the CPS are not likely to drop charges unless they have a compelling reason to do so. This raises several important questions, including what reasons the CPS might have to justify dropping charges and what steps you can take to get the CPS to drop charges.

Factors the police and CPS may consider when it comes to dropping charges in the UK include where:

  • There might be an adverse effect on the victim's physical or mental health
  • The suspect/defendant is elderly or experiencing significant ill health
  • The loss or harm is minor and related to a single incident
  • The loss or harm has been put right by the accused
  • There was a long delay between offence/charge or trial
  • A very small or nominal penalty is likely on conviction 
  • A case has been dealt with in another way, for example, by civil court or the parties becoming reconciled
  • There are informer or other public interest immunity issues
  • A caution is a more suitable outcome
  • The alleged offender is of a young age
  • It would be inappropriate to compel the victim to come to court

The framework of the simple caution scheme for adults is contained in the Ministry of Justice - Simple Caution for Adult Offender Guidance (MoJ Guidance)

Here, we provide answers to some common questions, as well as detailing what is likely to happen if you are successful in getting the CPS to drop the charges against you.

Can a Crown Court case be dropped?

Yes, a Crown Court case can potentially be dropped for various reasons, including lack of evidence against you, if the evidence against you was obtained illegally or if it is not considered in the public interest to continue the case against you. All of these factors can be very subjective, so having the right legal defence can really boost your chances of having your case dropped.

Can the CPS drop charges before court?

Yes, the CPS can drop charges before court in the two ways set out below – formal acquittal and discontinuance. One important advantage of having charges dropped before court is that the charges will then not appear on your criminal record, whereas charges dropped after court proceedings have begun may still appear on your record.

How will the CPS drop charges?

The responsibility of either terminating or pressing ahead with proceedings lies entirely with the CPS. If a prosecutor considers that, for any reason, proceedings should not continue, the CPS will always look to terminate the case at the earliest possible opportunity. The CPS look at the evidential test as to how strong the case is and we have to often remind them that the case may be weak. They must also be satisfied that it is in the public interest to prosecute and show good reason.

There are two main ways charges against you may be dropped:

Formal acquittal

The first way the CPS might drop charges against you is if the prosecution elects to ‘offer no evidence’ in court. This will lead to a formal acquittal, which is akin to a not guilty verdict. In the vast majority of cases, it is very difficult to re-instigate a case after no evidence is offered and the charge will be dismissed by the court.

Discontinuance

Under Section 23 and 23A of the Prosecutions of Offences Act 1985, prosecutors also have the power to discontinue proceedings without the need to obtain the leave of the court. This is referred to as discontinuance. Discontinuance avoids the need for a court hearing and the subsequently unnecessary attendance of the relevant parties.

While discontinuation may be more convenient as you will not have to attend court, it should be noted that it will not lead to acquittal. This means that the prosecution can be restarted at a later date with the same evidence.

Why might the CPS drop charges against you?

There are a number of reasons why the CPS might drop charges against you:

Lack of evidence

The most common reason will be because the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction. The evidence in question may also be considered unreliable, or the sources not credible, which will have a detrimental effect on the prosecution’s ability to prove the charges against you.

Evidence against you was illegally obtained

It may also be found that the evidence against you has, in some way, been illegally obtained. This will make it inadmissible in court, severely damaging the prosecution’s case against you. If the inadmissible evidence forms a large part of the case against you, the prosecution will not have sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction. As a result, the CPS are likely to drop the charges.

The prosecution is not in the public interest

It may also be the case that the prosecution elects to drop a case because it is not necessarily in the public interest. For example, if the charges levelled against you are relatively minor, the prosecution may consider that it is not in the ‘public interest’ for a prosecution to take place.

When making this decision, the prosecution will consider each of the following questions:

  1. How serious is the offence committed?
  2. How culpable is the suspect?
  3. How much harm was caused to the victim?
  4. What was the suspect’s age and maturity at the time of the offence?
  5. What is the impact on the community?
  6. Is the prosecution proportionate to the offence?
  7. Do sources of information require protecting?

To buy time to prepare for a later trial

The prosecution may also choose to discontinue charges for their own benefit. Although a prosecution can only rely on the same evidence if they restart proceedings. This additional time may allow the prosecution to reorganise their approach and general files, so that they are better prepared for a trial.

How to get the CPS to drop your case

Getting the CPS to drop charges against you will primarily rely on being able to point out holes in the case against you. If the evidence they present is not strong enough, or can be easily dismissed, it is much more likely that they will choose to offer no evidence or discontinue the charges.

This will be one of the first things your criminal defence solicitor will look to review when they take on your case. If the case being put against you is particularly weak, or there are obvious signs that the evidence is unreliable, this will be put forward to the prosecution. It will often be more beneficial for both parties if an agreement is reached and charges are dropped before conviction.

Our solicitors can also write to the police at your request to persuade the CPS not to proceed while there are considering whether to charge you.

We can either ask the CPS not to charge you or offer a caution for less serious cases. If there are good reasons why court proceedings should be avoided. This may relate to:

  • Remorse
  • Reconciliation with victim
  • Poor health
  • The impact on you and your family
  • Low level of offence
  • Public interest

In cases of low-level offences committed by first time offenders, it may be more suitable for the police to ask you to agree to a community resolution which is an out of court disposal and an agreement.

A community resolution provides the police with the opportunity to proportionally handle low level offences committed by first-time offenders without any recourse to formal criminal justice sanctions. Often, community resolution will include apologies, compensation, or a commitment to cleaning up any criminal damage caused.

This is why it is always important to have an expert criminal defence solicitor on your side, no matter what sort of charges you are faced with. They will have the experience and expertise to be able to carefully examine the prosecution’s case and recognise where it will be possible to get charges dropped altogether.

What will happen next if the CPS drop charges?

It should be noted that the decision to terminate a prosecution and drop charges is still susceptible to judicial review. This usually means that a full note of the reason for the decision is required.

The more difficult a decision is regarded to be, the more important it is for a detailed note to be provided showing how the evidential and public interest stages of the Full Code Test have been applied.

Under the Victim’s Right to Review (VRR) scheme, victims of an alleged crime also have the right to seek a review of a decision to terminate proceedings, where this results in an end to proceedings that directly relate to them.

If you are in custody at the time the charges are dropped, then arrangements will be made for your swift release.

As previously mentioned, it is important to remember that, if your case was discontinued, it may still be possible for the prosecution to reinstate it under the same evidence.

Get immediate specialist legal advice about getting charges against you dropped

If you are facing prosecution, our criminal defence solicitors are on hand to lend their expertise and help you get charges dropped by the CPS.

Using our detailed knowledge of criminal law, we have a strong record of helping clients to avoid charges, secure formal acquittals and win not guilty verdicts in court. Not only this, but we can also help to achieve reduced penalties where a conviction cannot be avoided.

Our expert knowledge and vast experience of the criminal justice system means that you can be confident knowing that your case is in the most dedicated and experienced hands. We will provide clear advice in plain English along with sympathetic personal support to help you through this difficult time and give you the best chance of the CPS dropping charges in the UK.

You can contact us 24-hours a day, seven days a week for an immediate free initial consultation, expert legal advice and representation.

Our highly experienced criminal defence lawyers offer:

  • 24/7 legal support in person and over the phone, 365 days a year
  • Representation anywhere in England or Wales
  • Accredited Police Station Representatives to support you during a police interview
  • Clear, effective legal advice in any language (see our languages spoken)
  • Local offices in LondonBirmingham or Manchester

If you need immediate advice and representation , please use our emergency contact numbers:

Birmingham – 07891 777090

Brent – 07836 577556

Camden – 07836 577556

Manchester – 07798 701339

Bespoke Private Fee Service

If you believe your case is likely to have serious consequences for you now, or in the future and you have the means to pay for this service

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Do we offer free consultations? 

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How can we help?

Common questions

We always work with the most experienced and best leading UK barristers, KCs (Kings Counsel). We cover all criminal cases 24/7 at the police station and court. Offices in London, Birmingham, and Manchester cover cases across England and Wales. We can offer Legal Aid and affordable Private fee agreements. We can see you the same day, including virtually. Our Senior Partners supervise all of our cases.

How quickly do you respond?

We respond quickly even during out of hours. We do not get our work by paying for online adverts but based on the fact that few criminal law firms can match our 45 years of experience. Most of our cases are still from word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied clients. We are called daily by dissatisfied clients from firms with less experience than us. We respond very quickly to new enquiries. We know what clients seek and so we update clients rapidly.

Can you get cases dropped?

Yes, read about the recent cases we've helped our clients with here.

We always keep you updated and give straightforward advice. We will get cases dropped early where the case is weak or should not be prosecuted. We will be upfront with you about where you can benefit from a good result with an early guilty plea, such as a discount on your sentence. As we work on cases across all levels with clients from all walks of life, we are excellent at giving clear, spot-on advice. As an established firm, we can allocate a whole team to your case often at short notice to secure evidence to minimise the damage to you. 

Have you won any awards?

OUR PROFESSIONAL BODY THE LAW SOCIETY AWARDED US IN OCTOBER 2020 WITH THE EXCELLENCE IN CLIENT SERVICE AWARD AND STATED - 

"JD Spicer Zeb demonstrated a clear commitment to client service through their work with vulnerable and diverse individuals in what can be severely traumatic circumstances".

Do you offer free consultations?

Where it is possible, we aim to provide an initial consultation to you. If we can speak to you, we can if required inform you about  –

  • Whether we can take the case on and our relevant experience.
  • Public and private funding benefits.
  • Assistance in applying for legal aid where we are likely to accept instructions.
  • An outline of options in police interview only. We will not advise you on which option to adopt.
  • Providing our free written guide explaining the police station process.
  • The gravity of routine and day-to-day offences you face.
  • Consequences of not attending the court or police station.
  • Consequences of interfering with any witnesses.
  • Retaining any evidence in support of your case.
  • If possible an outline of the elements of the offence that the police or CPS must prove.
  • This consultation will normally be by telephone or email and will only be for as long as we deem necessary to establish if we can act for you. If we cannot usefully give you any advice in this manner then we will not continue with the consultation. We will not discuss the case in depth for you to be able to decide on your plea or any significant aspect of the case, as this cannot be undertaken informally.
  • Referring you, if possible, to other firms for matters out of our specialism or if we cannot help.

Consultations do not apply to the following cases –

  • If we do not intend to take the case on.
  • Road Traffic cases, drink driving, drug driving, driving bans, speeding, no insurance, mobile phone use, points etc.
  • In all cases where we do not have the capacity to take your case or the availability of suitably qualified staff to provide an initial free consultation. This is applicable in all cases but especially where a more senior lawyer is required because of your personal needs or the complexity of the case.
  • Harassment/stalking/ coercive behaviour/malicious communications or road traffic cases and most sensitive cases. These cases are often too complicated to assess in short consultations.
  • The locations concerned may be too distant to represent you adequately or it may not be cost-effective for you or us.
  • The case is too complicated to assess or raises various charges or facts, complexity, or history to be considered informally or in a short consultation.
  • In most Legal aid transfers where legal aid is granted to another firm except in very grave cases, we may assess the case and merits for a transfer.
  • If your relationship has broken down with your existing solicitor or several solicitors.
  • If you have been released under investigation and have already had a police station attendance. 
  • If you hold legal aid with another firm and seek a second opinion.
  • If you are calling on behalf of the client as a friend or family member unless you have full authority and full facts.
  • To businesses.
  • Advising whether you were given good advice by your other solicitor.
  • Whether to decide to plead guilty or not guilty.
  • Whether you have an arguable defence in law or factually complicated defences.
  • Any advice you have had after your first court appearance.
  • Any advice on appeal on conviction or sentence.
  • If we feel we are unable to communicate with you.
  • If we are likely to be conflicted or breach our professional rules.