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Can the police drop charges against me?
If you are under investigation by the police or released on pre-charge bail, you may, understandably, be worried about the prospect of being charged with a criminal offence. Having the police drop charges is usually the ideal outcome, but whether or not this is possible will depend on your situation and, frequently, the quality of your defence solicitor.
Depending on your individual circumstances, it isn’t always guaranteed that the police will progress to charging you with a criminal offence. In some cases, they may elect to drop charges before passing on further information to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). In other cases, they may go to the CPS for advice on gathering evidence or charging. If this happens it is important we act for you proactively where necessary and we ask the police to show the CPS our written submissions or argument.
Of course, there needs to be a valid reason, or number of reasons, to justify the police’s decision to drop charges. So, what might these reasons be? And what alternative actions might the police take (e.g. agreeing a caution)?. You can engage us to advise and argue this for you on a private basis which will be an enhanced partner-led service.
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We are instructed regularly on a private basis by concerned clients from all walks of life to write to the police or call the police to get charges dropped. We usually make written representations to the police, and we ask that they read these before deciding to charge. We can ask that these be shown to the CPS if your case is pending a decision to charge you. Increasingly, the CPS is now asking the police in more cases if the suspect or lawyer has anything further to say before a charge is considered by the CPS lawyer.
If you were initially represented by another duty solicitor or firm, we will get the notes and take you through them to discuss a strategy. Sitting back and doing nothing is not always the best course of action. We are a proactive firm and we want to get results. Some firms will advise you to sit back and wait for a decision as they may not have the resources to take proactive steps for you.
We will answer common questions about the police dropping charges and more in the following post.
Can the police drop charges?
Yes, the police can potentially drop charges for a number of reasons, including lack of sufficient evidence to support a realistic chance of conviction, where the charge relates to a minor and/or first offence and if the police failed to follow the correct procedure in relation to your arrest or charging, causing the arrest to be deemed unlawful.
While the circumstances play a significant role in determining whether the police may drop charges, the reality is that having an experienced criminal defence solicitor representing you can hugely increase the likelihood of dropped charges.
Can they do it before going to court?
Yes, police can drop charges before any scheduled court date.
Can you ask the police to drop charges?
Yes, you (or more normally your lawyer) can formally request that charges be dropped. When making this request, you will need to offer compelling reasons why the charges should be dropped, such as lack of evidence to support the charges or errors in the police’s conduct of your arrest or charging.
If charges are dropped, is it still on your record?
If charges are dropped before any criminal trial has begun, then the charges will not remain on your criminal record. However, if the charges are dropped only after court proceedings have begun, then the charges may still appear on your criminal record.
How do police investigations work?
If the police suspect you of committing an offence and certain conditions are satisfied, the police will arrest you and take you to a police station as soon as practically possible. The police may have called you in for a voluntary interview to discuss a case. You can be arrested at this point but usually this will not happen in less serious cases, unless you will not remain for interview in which case you could be arrested.
If arrested, a custody officer will authorise your detention for the purpose of questioning in a recorded interview. Your fingerprints and a sample of your DNA will also be taken. In most cases, the police can detain you without charge for 24 hours, but this can be extended to 36 or 96 hours if you are suspected of a serious crime.
After the police have interviewed you, a decision will usually be made on what the next steps for your case will be. This may include your case being dropped with no further action being taken, being released under investigation, being released on pre-charge bail or being charged following a consultation with the CPS.
The law will from now on encourage the police to place individuals under pre-charge bail in “every case where it is necessary and appropriate,” as opposed to releasing them under investigation (RUI). This will be achieved by removing the perceived presumption against using pre-charge bail that has existed in the law up until this time.
The police must now consider releasing suspects on pre-charge bail where a case is ongoing. The police must follow a set of rules by law. Read more about the recent pre-charge bail law updates here.
Am I entitled to legal representation at the police station?
Yes. No matter what your circumstances are, you will always be entitled to legal advice when you are being investigated by the police. You can have a lawyer represent you under legal aid or privately.
Contrary to what some people initially believe, seeking out legal advice is not an admission of guilt. It will always be beneficial to your defence if you seek out the advice of a criminal defence solicitor then, under the right circumstances, it will drastically improve the chances of the police dropping charges against you.
What factors might convince the police to drop charges?
We are experts at finding faults with police cases as we have been doing this for 45 years. Our lawyers are passionate and highly qualified to analyse evidence. Whilst police officers sometimes think they have a great case, the reality is that they do not always have the strength of evidence they think.
We will tell the police where there is little or no evidence. We are objective and never mislead our clients.
We will decide whether we think an offence can be made out by the police in law.
We look at whether the police can prove the case with admissible evidence. This means evidence they can use in court rather than “he said this, or she said that hearsay”. We also make sure that evidence, such as CCTV and other forensic evidence, is of a high standard for you to be questioned about it. This is just one example and we understand the complicated rules of evidence which are detailed legal rules.
We can argue a caution if the criteria is met in your case.
A legal arrest becomes unlawful
It may be the case that the police do not follow the correct procedures when you have been arrested, which could lead to them dropping charges.
The rules set out in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 explain when and how often the police should look at whether you should be detained. Failing to follow these rules could see your arrest become unlawful.
For example, if a police officer fails to inform you that you are under arrest or fails to explain the reasons for your arrest, this would be considered unlawful.
There is a distinct lack of evidence
The police will need some form of evidence against you to be able to charge you with an offence. If, during the investigation stage, it is found that there is a distinct lack of evidence against you that renders any further action impossible, the police may drop the case before proceeding to the CPS.
The offence is minor and/or it is your first offence
If the offence you have been arrested for is considered to be minor, such as vandalism, and/or it is your first offence, the police may decide to drop the charges. Much more serious charges can be dropped in accordance with policies that exist locally or nationally.
We will interview you and ascertain the reasons for the offence. We may seek medical reports on your behalf or other character witnesses and supporting documents to persuade the police not to go ahead with the case.
The police are sometimes too quick to charge suspects and forget about the policies that exist to avoid prosecution and we will remind them.
However, it is important to note that, while the police may not decide to proceed with prosecution, they may take alternative action.
What actions can the police take instead of charging you?
The police may serve you with a caution as opposed to charging you. An official caution will form part of a criminal record, but it is not a conviction.
To be handed a caution, you must admit to an offence and agree to receive it. Failing to do so will likely lead to you being charged.
The police can 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.
Call us and ask for an affordable fixed fee quote to make written representations to the police
If you have been arrested, our criminal defence solicitors are on hand to lend their expertise and provide you with carefully tailored legal support.
Our expert knowledge and vast experience of the criminal justice system means that you can be confident in 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.
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 London, Birmingham or Manchester
If you need immediate advice and representation, please use our emergency contact numbers:
Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, you can fill out our quick online enquiry form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
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