Many people accused of crimes do not understand which things will help (or hurt) their case. A good criminal defense attorney will be able to advise you about the specifics of your case, but in general:
1. The government decides whether to prosecute a case, not the alleged victim.
Defendants in criminal cases often mistakenly believe that they can only be prosecuted by criminal acts if the alleged victim or “complaining witness” chooses to “press charges.” This is totally wrong. The prosecuting authority, usually the District Attorney’s Office, will make the decision as to whether or not suspected criminal acts will be prosecuted.
For the same reason, alleged victims can’t “drop” the charges. Often, the prosecutor will listen to the wishes of victims and their families, but the decision to abandon or move forward with a case rests with the government. In addition, many prosecution offices have strict “no
drop” policies with respect to certain crimes, like domestic violence, and will never dismiss a case based on the wishes of the alleged victim.
2. Ignorance of the law is not a defense.
“I didn’t know [certain conduct] was illegal” is not a defense to any charges against you. The police, don’t care what you know or don’t know about the law. Neither will the prosecutor or the judge. It is presumed that all people within the jurisdiction are aware of the law. Claiming that you were ignorant of a specific provision, which you are now charged with violating, will not allow you to escape criminal liability.
3. Innocence is not a basis for a motion to dismiss.
Criminal defendants will often request that their case be dismissed because they are innocent of the charges against them. However, a pre-trial motion to dismiss – that is, a formal request to the court to dismiss the charges – must be based on one of a very few, narrowly defined, technical reasons for dismissal (e.g., the time allowed to file charges has expired or the court has no jurisdiction over the case). A claim of innocence is not a valid reason for a dismissal motion. If you did not do what you are accused of doing, then you must plead “not guilty” to the charges and request a trial. It will then be up to the trier of fact, either a judge or jury, to review all of the evidence determine whether you are guilty or not guilty.
4. Your good character is generally irrelevant to your defense at trial.
While character witnesses may be extremely helpful at a bail hearing or a sentencing hearing, they are almost never allowed in criminal trials. Subject to a few limited exceptions, character evidence is generally inadmissible. The issue at a criminal trial is limited to whether you did the specific thing you are accused of doing. Evidence that you are a “good person,” or that your accuser is a “bad person,” generally is irrelevant.