Do you automatically win a criminal case if the police don’t show up on the day of the trial?
The answer is generally no, you don’t automatically win the case if the cops don’t show up in court on your trial date. At least not the first time it happens.
My experience is, it really varies depending on many factors, including:
- Who the judge is.
- How many times the case has already been set for trial.
- How strong the case is.
- Whether this is a first or multiple offense DUI, as well as what kind of a record the client has.
- If there is an accident or a victim, it is less likely that the judge throws out the case.
The biggest factors are the attitude of the judge and the likelihood that the prosecutor will be able to produce the police officer by the next court date.
Some Judges are Tough and Sympathetic to Police Officers and Some Care About Process
There are some judges who really don’t like to throw a case out. They will give the Commonwealth several extra chances if they can justify it, or if there is any reasonable chance that prosecutor will be able to bring the witnesses into court in the future.
Other, more defense friendly judges are more concerned that the client has a right to a speedy trial, and are interested in protecting that Constitutional right.
And some practical judges that worry about caseload and court time may just really want to move the cases along. So if the Commonwealth is not able to produce witness/witnesses, they are all too happy to throw out the case because it is one less thing that they have to worry about.
How Strong is the Case?
Another factor can be the facts of the case itself. Judges may take a practical view and will sometimes take weight the facts of the case. If they think that it is a strong case for the Commonwealth, they are more likely to hold on to the case.
But if it’s not a strong case for the Commonwealth, part of their rationale may be: even if the witnesses do show up, chances are that it is going to be a not guilty.
For example, If the case is weak, there is no breath test result, and the evidence of drunk driving isn’t compelling, that can definitely be a factor in not wanting to stretch it out to another court date. If the judge thinks the case is likely to be a not guilty, he or she may just dismiss it at trial because the officer isn’t there, rather than clog up the court docket.
Why Didn’t the Officer Make it to Court?
The exact reason that the officer didn’t make it to court that day can make a difference.
Sometimes there is no good excuse, and that absolutely favors the defendant. The judge is more likely to throw that case out if there isn’t a good reason. If an officer is anticipating a schedule conflict, he should have notified the prosecutor, who would then notify the court and the defense, so as not to waste everyone’s time.
But sometimes, the officer has a reasonable excuse. I have had situations where the officer has been injured as recently as the day before. If that is the case, most likely he or she will give the officer another chance. I also had a case where there had been a high-profile death of another trooper. If your officer doesn’t show up because he went to the funeral, the judges are also going to give a great deal of leeway in such a situation.
As you can see, there is no hard and fast rule as to what happens when the officer doesn’t show up, and different judges may respond differently depending on the situation. Some give the police a lot of leeway, and some are happy to dismiss the case to keep the court backlog to a minimum.
More Trial Court Dates are Incredibly Stressful.
I know that having to show up multiple times for a trial because the prosecution doesn’t have the witnesses to put on the case is extremely disruptive and stressful to my clients. You show up in court with huge anxiety, wondering what will happen, and then you don’t get an answer, and you have to do it all over again in a month.
So it is my job as an attorney to make the best possible argument to the judge as to why the case should be dismissed. And sometimes I can get them to dismiss the case.
Call me now for a free consultation on your Massachusetts criminal case. We represent clients facing all criminal charges in every district court in the state.