If you face a claim, accusation or charge of domestic violence or some other crime, you may be wondering if it’s possible to get a charge against you dropped.
The answer is yes—that is a possibility. But it depends on the circumstances.
Take the case of fired University of Texas basketball coach Chris Beard.
He was arrested on December 12, 2022, and charged with felony domestic violence. Beard was released later that day after posting a $10,000 bond. On the same day, he was also immediately suspended without pay by UT. Then, on January 5, 2023, Beard was fired by the university.
Thus, much damage to Beard’s career, livelihood and reputation had already been done.
Yet, on February 15, 2023, a prosecutor in the case moved to dismiss the charge against him. Today, Beard no longer faces a charge or a trial.
According to an Associated Press report provided by Houston’s KTRK ABC.13, the charge was dropped, in part, because of the alleged victim’s wishes that she did not want Beard to be prosecuted.
That person is Beard’s fiancée, Randi Trew. Beard was arrested last December after she called 911 and reportedly told officers that Beard had bitten her, hit her and attempted to strangle her during a confrontation at his home.
But Trew later said Beard had acted in self-defense, and she said she did not want him to be prosecuted. Also, in a public statement that she issued on December 23, 2022, she denied telling police that Beard had choked her—a distinction that makes a charge of domestic assault worse.
Beard’s criminal defense lawyer also maintains that his client is innocent of the charge of assault by strangulation/suffocation-family violence.
Choking or impeding breathing is a serious offense in Texas
Choking a victim during an assault is a serious offense under Texas Penal Code Chapter 22 on Offenses Against the Person.
Family violence-assault by choking or impeding breathing was formerly a Class A misdemeanor with a punishment of zero to 365 days in jail. But a change made to the law in 2009 makes it a 3rd-degree felony (not as severe as a 1st- or 2nd-degree felony), for which punishment for a 1st-time offender is 2 to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Those with a previous felony conviction can face up to 20 years in prison for the crime, the same as for a 2nd-degree felony.
Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza said in Austin that following a review of the evidence and considering the wishes of Trew, his office had determined that the charge against Beard of assault by strangulation/suffocation could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, it was dropped.
Victims cannot drop charges
Even though Trew asked for Beard not to be prosecuted, you should know that the victim or alleged victim of a crime in Texas cannot drop a charge against an alleged perpetrator. That request can be made to the prosecutor or the court, but it’s up to the prosecutor in the case to determine if a charge should be dropped—and that must receive the approval of the court.
A court can also dismiss a charge without a prosecutor’s recommendation if the court determines that the prosecutor has made a fundamental error in the case.
Not allowing a victim to drop a charge is actually designed to protect victims—particularly those who may ask for a charge to be dropped while under pressure or duress. If, by contrast, the evidence is clear that someone was harmed, the charge should remain.
However, lack of cooperation by a victim when their testimony would be key can make it difficult for a prosecutor to carry on with a case, and that can lead to a charge being dropped.
Regardless of how or why you’re facing a criminal charge, it’s important that you know what NOT to do from now on to protect your legal right to a strong defense.
Why are some criminal charges dropped or dismissed?
Criminal charges are often dropped or dismissed before a case goes to trial—especially if the defendant has a skilled criminal defense lawyer or attorney who can fight for their innocence.
As for why criminal charges may be dropped or dismissed, factors contributing to this can include lack of witness credibility, as well as insufficient or inadmissible evidence.
Other reasons why a charge may be dropped or dismissed include the following:
- Violations of the 4th Amendment, which protects Americans against unlawful searches and seizures by investigators, police or other law enforcement officers. Illegally obtained evidence must be excluded from a case, and if that happens, a prosecutor may decide to drop a criminal charge due to a lack of sufficient evidence.
- Violations of the strict procedures involved when it comes to arresting, booking, questioning, setting bail hearings or engaging in other pretrial activities. Such procedural violations may lead to a case being dismissed or punishment being reduced.
- If it’s determined that a suspect was subjected to an illegal stop or there was a lack of “probable cause” to make an arrest or search leading to an arrest. Police must have reasonable grounds based on facts for deciding to make an arrest or search, not just a gut feeling.
By using such standards designed to protect defendants, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can argue for a defendant’s charge to be dropped during pretrial negotiations with prosecutors.
If the attorney is unable to get a charge dropped, it still may be possible to get a charge reduced, along with possible punishments. That process is called a “plea deal,” when a defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for the original charge being reduced.
Get a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer
You must get a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to handle your case and work to have a charge dropped or dismissed. Your defense lawyer may even be able to prevent a charge from being filed in the first place.
Award-winning criminal defense lawyer Neal Davis of the Neal Davis Law Firm has defended his clients’ legal rights many times in this way. He’s been able to get charges dismissed or dropped in cases involving alleged child sex abuse, indecency with a child by contact and other cases.