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Charged With the Wrong Crime? What Can You Do?

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Think you've been charged with the wrong crime? What can you do about it? Does it mean your case will automatically be dismissed?

Not necessarily. Defendants who are arrested and called into criminal court often believe they have been charged with the wrong crime. Perhaps you committed a petty theft, but got charged with something completely different because of a clerical error. Or perhaps you feel the seriousness of your charge doesn't fit the allegations.

If you truly believe you've been charged with the "wrong crime," here are a few things to consider:

You Can Argue for Lesser Charge

Many times, defendants are arrested for what they believe is something minor, yet the prosecution alleges a serious felony was committed. For example, many drug offenders are picked up by police for possession with intent to distribute (a felony) when they believe they only possessed a small amount of an illegal substance (typically a misdemeanor).

Your criminal defense attorney can argue that there is insufficient evidence to support the higher charge, potentially negotiating with prosecutors for you to plead guilty to a lesser charge. While a total dismissal would be the best result a defendant might hope for, realistically speaking, pleading to a lesser charge can help you avoid prosecution for the wrong crime.

You Can Argue It Was Not Felonious Conduct

Judges and prosecutors often have the power to reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor if the allegations are not severe enough to constitute "felonious conduct."

Some assault, theft, and drug charges are known as "wobbler" offenses, which means a judge or prosecutor can determine whether the allegations constitute a misdemeanor or felony. If you feel you were wrongly charged with a felony, your attorney can argue that it be reduced to a misdemeanor.

You Can Claim Clerical Error

You've been charged with a crime, but what if you think it was simply a clerical error?

Clerical mistakes on citations or notices to appear in court are not likely to get your entire case dismissed. Prosecutors can (and often do) amend charges, drop charges, or even add charges, to reflect the available evidence.

However, if your conduct has absolutely nothing to do with what you've been charged with, a competent defense attorney should help your chances of dismissal or acquittal.

You Can Claim It Wasn't You

Have you been charged with the wrong crime because you didn't commit a crime at all? It's rare, but prosecutors have been known to make mistakes in charging the wrong person. If that's what happened to you, then your attorney can help you prove that you were not involved -- or were less involved in the alleged crime than the charges indicate.

In all of these "wrong crime" situations, having an experienced defense attorney to help you is key to your success. So don't make the wrong move and represent yourself when charged with the wrong crime.

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