Criminal Pre-Filing Decision: Don’t Miss Your Window of Opportunity!
An arrest for a crime is just that – an arrest. It’s not a conviction. It means that the arresting officer is of the opinion that there is probable cause to arrest you for the charge. That is not to say that it is an insignificant event. It is significant and important. An arrest is usually the beginning of the criminal process. However, it is also an opportunity for the arrestee. So don’t miss it.
The Clock is Ticking
Once you are arrested; time is of the essence. Speeding trial is running (90 days for a misdemeanor and 175 days for a felony). Within the next several weeks a prosecutor will be evaluating the facts, circumstances, and evidence of your case to determine whether and/or what formal charge will and/or should be filed. The prosecutor has broad discretion to choose to file or not file a formal charge during this time. This process usually takes approximately four to six weeks after an arrest is made. The prosecutor also knows that if the charge is not filed before speedy trial; the case will get dismissed.
This may put the prosecutor in a position to have to file something before speedy trial runs. At that point, it may be in the arrestee’s best interest to waive speedy trial BEFORE the case is filed. This way the prosecutor may have more time to speak with witnesses or review evidence and not rush into a filing decision.
It is at this time that your attorney can speak with the prosecutor and provide him with information in the form of documents, witnesses, and/or affidavits, etc. that can be used to determine that a formal criminal charge should not be filed against you; or that some lesser charge is more appropriate. Perhaps it is your first brush with the law and you are remorseful. Maybe the victim does not want to prosecute you. Is there even enough evidence to gain a conviction? Are there conflicting statements as to what actually happened? This is the time to get the ear of the prosecutor. Don’t roll the dice and hope that your case falls through the cracks. They don’t. It may be your best and only opportunity to get your case dropped. Once that filing decision is made, it is much more difficult to get the State to change their minds.
If you are arrested it is important to seek counsel from an attorney as early as possible. Don’t ignore the case and hope that the State elects not to file a charge. You may be missing an important window of opportunity to have an impact on the prosecutor’s filing decision.