What Are the Reasons a Criminal Case Can Be Dismissed?

In the realm of criminal law, a dismissed case signifies that the case has been closed without a finding of guilt and no conviction for the defendant. This is a highly favorable outcome for defendants, as it allows them to avoid the severe consequences accompanying a criminal conviction.

In South Carolina, there are several reasons why a criminal case might be dismissed. A dedicated Greenville criminal defense attorney at Baldwin Law will vigorously defend your rights. Contact our law firm today for a free case review.

1. Absence of Probable Cause for Arrest

The concept of probable cause is a fundamental principle in the U.S. justice system. In South Carolina, law enforcement must have probable cause to believe — not just suspect — that you committed a crime before you can be arrested.

This means they must have factual, objective evidence pointing to your guilt. This could come in the form of video footage, witness statements, or being caught in the act. If there was no probable cause for your arrest, this could be grounds for dismissal as the case cannot proceed.

2. Unlawful Stop, Search, or Seizure

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. In South Carolina, law enforcement officers may only stop an individual under certain circumstances. They cannot randomly stop an individual based on his or her race, religion, or physical appearance alone.

Furthermore, they cannot search your property without a search warrant, except in very limited circumstances. If these rights were violated during your arrest or investigation, any evidence obtained may be deemed inadmissible in court, which could lead to the dismissal of your case.

3. Missing Evidence or Unavailable Witnesses

The prosecution has an obligation to preserve evidence and make it available to the defense. If crucial evidence is lost or if key witnesses are unavailable to testify, and there is no other proof to substantiate that a crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt, this could lead to the dismissal of the charges.

4. Errors in Criminal Complaint or Charging Document

The criminal complaint or charging document is an essential part of any criminal case. It must accurately state the charges against you and provide enough detail to allow you to prepare a defense. If there are errors or omissions in these documents, this could lead to dismissal of your case.

an experienced lawyer can find grounds for dismissing your case

5. Violation of Your Right to a Speedy Trial

Under both the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 14 of the South Carolina Constitution, you have a right to a speedy trial. If there are unnecessary delays in bringing your case to trial, this could be grounds for dismissal.

6. Insufficient Evidence

Even if all procedures were followed correctly during your arrest and investigation, the prosecution must still prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime. If they cannot meet this high standard of proof, your case could be dismissed.

Dismissal vs Acquittal

In the context of criminal law in South Carolina, “acquittal” and “dismissal” are two terms that carry different implications.


An acquittal is a formal declaration that the defendant is not guilty of the charges they were facing. This verdict can be delivered by either a jury or a judge. Once a defendant is acquitted, they cannot be tried again for the same charges due to the principle of double jeopardy. Essentially, an acquittal is a formal judgment that declares the innocence of the defendant.


Contrarily, a dismissal occurs when a case is dropped before it reaches trial due to insufficient evidence or procedural errors. A dismissal can happen at any stage before a judge or jury makes a decision. Unlike an acquittal, a dismissal does not prevent the prosecutor from bringing the charges again at a later date. A dismissal is more procedural rather than a judgment.

In essence, both acquittal and dismissal result in the defendant avoiding punishment. However, they differ in their implications. An acquittal is a formal declaration of innocence following a trial, whereas a dismissal indicates that charges were dropped prior to trial due to lack of evidence or procedural issues.

Talk to a Greenville Criminal Defense Lawyer

Remember that each criminal case is unique and requires a thorough evaluation by an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you have been arrested or are being investigated by law enforcement for criminal charges in South Carolina, our attorney at Baldwin Law is ready to fight for your rights.

Contact our offices at 864-630-8503 for a free case evaluation.

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