Will Prosecutorial Misconduct Result in the Dismissal of a Criminal Case?

March 27, 2023

Prosecutorial misconduct refers to any actions taken by a prosecutor that violate the ethical rules or legal standards governing the conduct of criminal trials. These actions can range from withholding evidence that would exonerate a defendant, to making false or misleading statements in court, to coercing or bribing witnesses. When such misconduct occurs, it can have serious consequences for the defendants, the prosecutors, and the integrity of the criminal justice system as a whole.

In California, as in most other states, when a defendant believes that a prosecutor has engaged in misconduct, they can raise the issue in a motion to dismiss the charges or for a new trial. The standard for proving prosecutorial misconduct is a high one, and defendants must typically show that the misconduct was both material and prejudicial. In other words, the misconduct must have been significant enough to have affected the outcome of the trial, and the defendant must have been harmed by it.

One of the most common forms of prosecutorial misconduct is known as “Brady violation.” This refers to a failure by the prosecution to disclose evidence that is favorable to the defense, and that is material to the guilt or innocence of the defendant. This includes evidence that would tend to exculpate the defendant, or that would impeach the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses. When a Brady violation is found, courts will usually order a new trial.

Another form of misconduct that can lead to the dismissal of a case is when the prosecutor makes false or misleading statements in court. This can include knowingly presenting perjured testimony, or making statements that are not based on evidence or are intended to mislead the jury. When this type of misconduct is found, courts may dismiss the case or grant a new trial.

Coercing or bribing witnesses is another form of misconduct that can lead to the dismissal of a case. This can include offering a witness leniency in exchange for testifying, or threatening a witness with arrest or prosecution if they do not testify as the prosecution wishes. When this type of misconduct is found, the court will usually dismiss the case or grant a new trial.

However, it is important to note that proving misconduct is not easy, and even if a defendant can show that a prosecutor engaged in misconduct, the court will not automatically dismiss the case or grant a new trial. Instead, the court will consider the nature and extent of the misconduct, as well as the potential impact on the outcome of the trial, in determining whether to dismiss the case or grant a new trial.

Finally, it’s important to note that even when misconduct is proven, it may not result in the dismissal of the case. The court has other remedies, such as ordering a new trial or imposing sanctions on the prosecutor. These remedies will depend on the nature and severity of the misconduct, and the impact on the outcome of the trial.

Attorney John D. Rogers is an Orange County criminal defense attorney. He is a board-certified criminal law specialist by the State Bar of California. His office is located in Newport Beach, CA and he represents clients throughout Southern California in state and federal cases. If you’re seeking legal representation, give the Law Offices of John D. Rogers a call to schedule a free consultation.

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