For whatever reason, people nowadays seem to think not having a prior record entitles them to an automatic dismissal. While there may be options available to avoid a conviction if you have a clean record, you should not assume your charges will be dismissed as a matter of course.
That also applies to being a nice person or politeness during the process. Dismissals are by no means automatic. A dismissal of charges certainly is not guaranteed.
If you face criminal charges in Raleigh, whether the accusations involve a felony or misdemeanor, we think it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced lawyer. Going into court alone, hoping for the best possible scenario, a dismissal, can carry consequences.
The assumption that the DA’s Office in Raleigh dismisses cases simply because you’re a nice person, you have a perfectly clean record, or you’re willing to pay a big fine, is misplaced. It’s not that simple – John Fanney, Criminal Defense Attorney Wake County NC
One reason people may infer a dismissal of charges is no big deal or automatic involves politeness, courtesy, and professionalism. It’s not unusual for law enforcement in Raleigh, after an arrest and processing, to thank the person they’ve arrested or issued a citation for being polite and cooperative.
They may even say something like, “I’m sorry I had to charge and arrest you. You seem like a really nice person and we all make mistakes. I’ll let the judge know you have been polite and cooperative.”
It’s human nature. Police officers can both enforce the law and show empathy towards the people they arrest. Clearly, not everyone charged with a crime (or issued a ticket) is polite and cooperative.
Indeed, some people arrested for criminal charges hurl insults and fight the police. We see that most often if someone has had too much to drink and isn’t necessarily acting themselves. The over-consumption of alcohol is a common factor in arrests for offenses other than DWI charges in Raleigh.
Alcohol plays a role in DV – Domestic Violence cases, assaults, and crimes of theft like shoplifting and unlawful concealment.
As such, when the police arrest someone for criminal charges, even if they involve what might amount to accusations of a felony, they generally appreciate not being hassled in the process.
Will they dismiss my charges if I was polite?
Offering to “tell the judge you were polite” is regularly inferred to mean, “The officer is going to recommend the charges be dismissed.”
While understandable, that logic exposes a fundamental misunderstanding of how criminal charges proceed in court.
The State decides whether to prosecute charges, not the judge. ‘Putting in a good word with the judge’ actually relates to sentencing after a conviction or guilty plea – John Fanney, Wake County Criminal Lawyer
Clearly, being polite with the charging officer is a good idea. They have a job to do. Their job is to enforce the law. But make no mistake, if they think you broke the law, generally speaking, they wouldn’t arrest you if they didn’t want you to be convicted.
In fact, one recognized “factor in mitigation” for a felony criminal charge in NC involves accepting responsibility early on. Under the NC Criminal Sentencing Laws, the Court (the sentencing Judge) takes into consideration things such as:
- During an early stage of the criminal process or prior to the arrest by law enforcement, the defendant admitted responsibility or “acknowledged wrongdoing” to a police officer or law enforcement officer.
- The accused (the defendant) accepts responsibility for his or her conduct.
- The accused has, prior to the criminal charges at hand, had a good community reputation or has otherwise known to be someone with good character.
- The defendant broke the law because he or she was coerced to do so or was threatened or otherwise under duress. While not enough to excuse the accused of criminal liability under the Defense of Duress (fails to rise to the level of a formal defense against the charges), that level of coercion, duress, and threats reduces the defendant’s, by a significant amount, legal responsibility or culpability for the crime
- The defendant played a minor role in the crime or passively participated in the commission of the crime.
Can I get a dismissal if I pay a big fine or do community service?
That inquiry is also quite common. People think, “I’ll do whatever it takes, pay however much in fines and penalties, I just need to get these charges dismissed.”
Unfortunately, while completely understandable, that too isn’t really how the court system works.
We tend to hear those types of arguments for DWI charges in Raleigh. People realize they’ve made a mistake and understand there will be consequences. The DWI laws in North Carolina are often substantially more harsh than many people charged with impaired driving understand – John Fanney, Raleigh DWI Attorney
Should I give up and plead guilty?
No. There may be legal options, and defenses, to your charges. That’s why we think retaining an experienced criminal defense lawyer makes sense. We can help explain the legal system, how things work, and prepare you for the worst-case and best-case scenarios.
There is a considerable amount of anecdotal and incorrect information out there. If you face criminal charges, whether that’s for a felony or misdemeanor, we encourage you immediately seek legal counsel.
There are certain types of deferral options that may apply in your case. North Carolina authorizes, in certain circumstances, a “Conditional Discharge” for charges.
In those instances, your prior criminal record and history, or lack thereof, are considered.
It can help to be polite. It also may help if you have a clean record. But neither serve as a promise or guarantee that your charges will be dismissed. Understanding that is an important first step in defending your charges – John Fanney, Criminal Defense Lawyer Raleigh NC