Although you may have been arrested or investigated by the police for a criminal offence it does not necessarily follow that you will be charged. In fact, with an experienced criminal defence solicitor on your side, the charges may be dropped before the court date. The problem is most people do not instruct a solicitor until it is too late. This article explains how the police come to a decision to lay criminal charges and how a criminal defence solicitor can get police to drop charges, removing the need to attend court.
How do the police charge people with a criminal offence?
If you are caught committing a criminal offence or the police suspect you of perpetrating a crime the police will either arrest you or ask you to come to the police station voluntarily
Upon arrest, a custody officer will take your fingerprints and a DNA sample. In most cases you can only be held without being charged for a maximum of 24 hours, however, this can be extended to up to 96 hours if a successful application is made to the Magistrates’ Court.
If the police do decide to charge you, in most instances, they must consult with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS will decide whether or not the case will be brought before the court.
Every charging decision is based on the same two-stage test in the Code for Crown Prosecutors:
- Does the evidence provide a realistic prospect of conviction? and;
- Is it in the public interest to prosecute?
Do I have the right to call a solicitor if I am arrested?
You have a right to legal representation from the moment you are arrested. Upon arrival at the police station, your solicitor will receive ‘disclosure’ which is a document outlining the offence that the police are investigating. Often the information available is limited. However, our solicitors have the expertise to ask the investigating officer the right questions and to try and obtain as much information as possible. Our aim is always to place you in the best possible position.
Prior to the police interview, you will be given the opportunity to have a private consultation with your solicitor. The police disclosure is then discussed and your detailed instructions about the matter are taken. Crucially, you will be advised about the best approach to take in the interview.
If you take one thing away from this article let it be this – always insist on having an experienced criminal defence solicitor present before you say or consent to anything. This is your legal right and is in no way an admission of guilt. A good solicitor can prevent charges from being laid at this stage or, failing that, gather evidence to have them dropped before the court date.
What happens during a voluntary police station interview?
If you are asked to attend a voluntary police interview it is in your best interests to go as refusing to cooperate could lead to the police arresting you so they can conduct a standard police interview.
A voluntary police interview will take place at a police station. Before the interview begins, you will be told:
- The names of the officers in attendance
- That the interview is being recorded
- What the interview is for, including the particular offence being investigated
- You can end the interview at any time
- You can remain silent
- That anything you do say can be used against you in a court of law
- That you have the right to a solicitor
If you are not formally cautioned, any comments you make during the interview may be inadmissible in court.
During the interview, the officers may ask questions to establish:
- Where you were on a particular day and at a certain time
- If you know a particular person/s
- Whether you were present when a certain event occurred
If the interview goes on for more than two hours, you are entitled to a 15 minute break.
Never attend a voluntary police station interview without your solicitor.
What factors may lead to the police dropping criminal charges?
Our criminal defence solicitors will examine the details of your arrest or the police investigation to identify if:
- The police followed the rules set out in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, for example explaining your right to have a solicitor present and/or why you have been arrested.
- Whether there is enough evidence to charge you with a criminal offence.
- Whether the offence is minor, or it is the first time you have been in trouble with the law.
What our solicitors are looking for is a justifiable reason to argue that criminal charges should be dropped or, in cases of a minor or first-time offence, a caution should be given instead of charges being pressed. Our Solicitors will look for any opportunity to get police to drop charges against you.
In cases involving matters such as assault or domestic violence, can the police press charges if the complainant is not supportive?
Generally, it is difficult to successfully prosecute an offence if the complainant refuses to provide a statement or does not attend court. However, in some instances the prosecution can proceed with a case based on the evidence of eye witnesses or the 999 phone call. The prosecution may also make an application at court to request that comments made by the complainant to the police are admitted into evidence as ‘hearsay’. Therefore, even if the complainant withdraws their support for a prosecution, it is imperative that you contact a specialist criminal defence solicitor to advise and represent you.
What a criminal defence solicitor can do to try and Get Police to Drop Charges and avoid a prosecution
Part of a criminal defence solicitors role is to examine the strength of the evidence. If the evidence is weak, your solicitor can make representations to the police that the matter should not be proceeded with, on the basis of lack of evidence.
Post interview, you may be released from the police station on police bail which means you are subject to certain bail conditions. In the alternative, you may be ‘released under investigation’ which means the police are continuing to investigate but you are not subject to any bail conditions. After your release from police custody, and before any charging decision, your solicitor can make written representations to the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to drop the case. This would involve taken detailed instructions of your account, and analysing the evidence in order to draft formal written representations to send to the police and Crown Prosecution Service. Your solicitor can also take statements from any defence witnesses, obtain CCTV and gather other relevant information to strengthen the representations. Unfortunately, there is no government funding for this, and would have to be paid for privately.
How will I know that criminal charges against me have been dropped?
Your solicitor will receive notice that the charges against you have been dropped and they will inform you immediately. You will also be told whether or not the charges can be reinstated at a future date.
Our criminal defence solicitors are some of the most experienced and highly-regarded in the country, having acted on many high-profile cases. Not only can we defend you in court, but our solicitors also have the legal knowledge and expertise required to examine the police evidence and persuade officers and/or the CPS to forgo or drop charges before the case goes to court.
If you have been arrested or are facing a police investigation, our criminal law solicitors can help. Please get in touch through our contact page here. Alternatively, you can phone 0333 240 7373, or email us at email@example.com.