My clients who have been charged with criminal offenses are, by and large, educated people who have good jobs and are fairly sophisticated individuals. As such, explaining my methods for trying to win their criminal cases without having to go to trial certainly sounds appealing to them. The information that I am about to share with you would never have been written by criminal defense lawyers 20 years ago; perhaps not even 10 years ago. But we live in an information age where any person can assess the web and receive abundant information pertaining to criminal cases and how they are handled. The problem that I see is that very little of the criminal defense information found on the internet was written by actual criminal lawyers. Hence, there is quite a lot of incorrect or outdated criminal information that, either poorly informs the reader or imperfectly describes the methods that the best criminal lawyers use to have cases dismissed before trial.

This piece will focus on 5 proven methods and practices that most really talented criminal lawyers employ to win cases before they ever go to trial.

1. Motion to Dismiss

Certain criminal prosecutions have inherent flaws that, if properly addressed can result in a judge dismissing the case before trial. A Motion to Dismiss is one such pre-trial tool used by talented criminal lawyers to end a case that should never have been prosecuted. I will tell you how it works.

The lawyer submits documents to the Court asking the Judge to dismiss a case that is fundamentally flawed. Simply put, Motions to Dismiss relate to matters of form, substance, former acquittal, former jeopardy, or any other defense.

The most common type of Motion to Dismiss in criminal cases comes from situations where there are no material disputed facts and the undisputed facts do not establish a prima facie case of guilt against the client.

In Florida, like many other states, criminal defense lawyers can move to dismiss cases where the client has been charged with an offense that he or she had already received a pardon.

Similarly, a lawyer can seek to dismiss a criminal charge when a client has already been placed in jeopardy in another case that arises out of the same facts and circumstances.

A fourth situation where a criminal lawyer can file a Motion to Dismiss is when a client is charged with a crime for which the client has already received immunity from prosecution.

2. Attacking the Legal Basis for the Stop

I believe that the best criminal lawyers begin the defense of criminal cases when they attack the legal and factual basis for the initial police encounter with the client. What we are looking for here is an application of the facts of the specific case with the law enforcement officer’s reasons for stopping and/or detaining a client as a prelude to an arrest.

It has been my experience that it is very easy for a criminal lawyer to overlook or ignore key facts pertaining to police officer’s reasons to stop and detain a citizen. Quite often, the client’s version of the facts is substantially different from the officer’s written report as to what caused the officer to stop and detain the client. Even the smallest discrepancy in the statements of police officers can be effectively used by criminal lawyers to undermine the officer’s testimony and damage that officer’s credibility before the Court.

One example in a DUI case underscores that not every poor driving feature warrants a stop by a police officer. Expertly trained DUI lawyers seek out information about other cases with similar facts to create a legal defense that says, in simple terms, “…the police officer mistakenly believed that there was a lawful reason to stop a particular vehicle wrongfully believing that the driver had committed a traffic offense.”

In situations where the criminal lawyer believes that the police officer misinterpreted the acts or actions of the driver of a motor vehicle or had a mistaken belief that that person had committed a driving offense an acceptable practice is to file a Motion to Suppress stating that the police officer didn’t have a lawfully sound reason for stopping a motorist that was later arrested and charged with DUI.

The best criminal lawyers routinely drag police officers into court and make them justify why they detained and arrested their client’s. The introduction of dash-mounted cameras in police cars provide excellent evidence of what a police officer saw before, during, and after they initiate traffic stops. Most jurisdictions have this technology. It is up to the criminal lawyer to use it when it assists them in making the argument that the police made a mistake or exaggerated the severity of a client’s behavior.

If there is evidence that other judges dismissed cases similar to the client’s case, then the criminal lawyer will produce the records of judge’s decisions that help the client. The goal is to have the judge accept the proposition that the officer wrongly arrested client and prevents the prosecutor from being able to use whatever information that the officer learned upon making contact with the client.

If a Motion to Suppress is granted by the judge, then the prosecutor will have to find another way of proving that the client committed a crime. In reality, the prosecutors will have a very difficult time proving up a crime when they won’t be able to introduce any evidence obtained by the police.

In most of the criminal cases that I have handled, when the judge grants our Motion to Suppress, the prosecutors usually agree to discontinue the case right there in court.

3. Attacking the Forensic Test Results

The central issue of many circumstantial evidence cases involving law enforcement evidence testing is whether such evidence can be used by the prosecution at trial to support the charges of the case. The best criminal lawyers routinely begin their attack of this type of evidence when it appears that the police/citizen encounter or stop is deemed proper by the judge. In other words, when we can’t get the case thrown out based upon a ”bad stop,” then the issue of forensic or chemical test admissibility becomes the primary task of the seasoned criminal lawyer.

Another example in a DUI prosecution involves the existence of chemical test results that purport to show that the DUI client had an illegal amount of alcohol, or other intoxicating substance, in their blood at the time of the arrest. Thisseems to most people to be an unassailable fact that cannot be refuted. However, The highly trained criminal lawyers do not accept the validity of such test results before performing an extensive examination of how the tests were performed and whether there are credible reasons to disbelieve the findings of these tests.

4. Exploiting Law Enforcement Officer’s Mistakes

Very few criminal cases are dismissed because of a law enforcement officer’s mistake, or even a series of mistakes. The things that the best criminal lawyers look for is type of mistake committed by a police officer that undermines or calls into question the believability of that police officer’s testimony about certain important parts of the case. Specifically, I am speaking about are situations where police officers say things or do things that would cause ordinary people to question the particular officer’s judgment.

For instance, when DUI police officers make suspected DUI subjects perform sobriety test exercises that are not standard or not scientifically based then their decision to have the DUI suspect perform them are open to criticism and their motives for employing such non approved procedures are subject to severe scrutiny by DUI lawyers.

Sometimes, we see cases where police officers say things to suspects that simply aren’t true. Some police officers tell suspects that they don’t have the right to a lawyer before questioning them. These situations often arise when suspects assert their right not to cooperate with arresting officers. The “coercive” power of a law enforcement officer over a criminal suspect has long been a source of pre-trial examinations as to whether the officer exceeds his or her authority in the course of securing an arrest.

Likewise, when law enforcement officers submit written reports that contain inaccurate information, or worse, fabricated information, then it is essential for the criminal lawyer tofind an effective way to discredit the offending officer, or at least, their testimony.A failure to do so could mean that the client would be convicted through the admission and acceptance of unreliable testimony, thereby resulting in grave injustice.

Some arresting police officer mistakes sound like simple technicalities. But, in the criminal justice arena, these technicalities can mean the difference between an acquittal and a conviction. In the end, police officers and members of law enforcement must be held to a high standard for reliability and accuracy in the performance of their duties. Whenever that standard suffers, it becomes the duty of the criminal lawyer to exploit their errors to benefit their clients.

5. Effective use of facts and legal issues that prove a client’s innocence.

This is a topic that entire legal books are written about. The best criminal lawyers spend a great time analyzing their cases to determine how to best use the facts of their case that demonstrates that their clients didn’t commit the crimes that they were charged with. I routinely consult with other top criminal defense lawyers to get their input as how to best approach certain fact patterns. Remember, many cases are crimes involving the opinions of police officers and prosecutors that the law was broken. There is a significant amount of institutional skepticism carried by many prosecutors that causes them to act indifferently to certain facts that promote a suspect’s innocence.

It often falls on the criminal lawyer to convey the importance of what we call exculpatory evidence to prosecutors who ultimately will try the case in court. The best criminal lawyers find the right way to effectively use key facts to create an impenetrable defense that forces prosecutors to rethink the value of the case.