How Often Are Felony Charges Dropped

A felony is a serious criminal charge that could result in very harsh punishments. Depending on the nature of the charges, a conviction could include hefty fines, long-term prison sentences, and other penalties.

It’s important to understand the different types of felony charges and what penalties may result from them. This overview will provide insight into how felony charges are handled and how often they are dropped.

Definition of a Felony

In the United States, felonies are serious crimes punishable by more than one year in prison or death. Although laws vary by state, examples of felonies include murder, rape, armed robbery, serious drug offenses, and aggravated assault.

Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines (FSG), felonies are classified into 43 different offense levels based on the potential penalties prescribed by Congress. The level of seriousness is determined in part by the nature of the crime and its impact on society but also by any aggravating or mitigating circumstances that may be present in a particular case.

For instance, kidnapping may be a level 20 offense if it involves a permanent or substantial injury to a victim but may only be considered a level 15 offense if it does not involve such an injury.

All 50 states also have their own classification schemes for criminal offenses ranging from misdemeanors to class A felony offenses punishable by death in certain cases. Notably, there is no uniform system for categorizing felonies under various state criminal codes; instead, each state has its own system for defining crimes and setting penalties accordingly.

Commonly used factors to differentiate felony classes include the severity of harm done or intended; any specific violence involved; whether weapons were used during the commission of the crime; and the offender’s prior criminal history among others.

Types of Felonies

Depending on the jurisdiction, felonies are generally classified into different levels or classes. Classifications vary from country to country, but in the United States felonies are typically classified as either violent or nonviolent and further divided into five levels or classes.

The lowest classes of felonies may include lesser offenses that are still severely punished, such as a white-collar criminal offense, while higher classes often involve major crimes such as robbery and homicide.

Class A Felonies: The most serious type of crime carries some of the harshest penalties, especially when it involves murder. Other class A felony crimes may include certain types of manslaughter, rape, kidnapping, and arson. The typical sentence for a class A felony is at least ten years imprisonment; however, punishments can range up to life sentences or even the death penalty depending on the severity of the offense and whether state laws allow its use.

Class B Felonies: Typically involve more than one person in a particular criminal act. When any form of violence is involved in these types of crimes it can result in serious punishments ranging from three to fifteen years of imprisonment depending on the severity and circumstances involved with each case. Examples include robbery (with a weapon), burglary (with a firearm), aggravated assault, and certain forms of drug trafficking.

Class C Felonies: These are less serious than Class B felonies but also carry real prison sentences typically ranging from one to seven years depending upon each state’s system for assigning punishment for these types of offenses. This classification includes offenses such as theft involving significant sums of money or property over $500 dollars, possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute, vehicular homicide, and certain other forms of fraud (e.g., insurance).

Class D Felony: Represents those convicted with lower-level felony offenses that usually involve fewer than two people engaging in criminal activity such as larceny (without violence) and misuse or destruction of property where the amount exceeds $200 dollars but not more than $10 thousand dollars; this category also includes certain drug possession charges when no intent to distribute is present; an example might be possession marijuana greater than eight ounces but less than ten pounds under certain circumstances Penalties typically range from six months to four years depending upon each state’s sentencing guidelines for class D felons including possibilities financial restitution by those found guilty. In some cases, probation may also be given along with community service work.

Class E Felony: Consists largely of misdemeanors upgraded due to repetitive offenses such as shoplifting, petty theft, artifice, trespassing, obstructing justice, and possession of small amounts of drugs while knowing they are illegal. Depending upon the exact statutes of each state, jail time is rarely more than one year although some fines restrictions may be allowed higher penalties to serve deterrents other persons break the law.

Factors That Impact Dropping a Felony Charge

When facing a felony charge, it is sometimes possible for the charge to be dropped. Factors that impact whether or not a felony charge is dropped can include the severity of the crime, the strength of the evidence, and the availability of witnesses. In this article, we will explore the different factors that can impact whether or not a felony charge is dropped.


One of the main factors that can impact whether a felony charge is dropped is the evidence available against an individual accused of the crime. When there is not sufficient evidence to consider a case, many times defendants will be able to argue that they should not proceed forward in criminal proceedings and will be released rather than face prosecution.

This means that if an individual is accused of a felony and there is substantial evidence or witnesses who can testify against them, they may find it difficult to get the charges dismissed. However, if there is weaker or conflicting evidence or no witnesses, then the chances of getting a felony charge dismissed may be significantly greater.

In addition to considering the available evidence, prosecutors will also take into account the strength of any defense presented on behalf of the accused and clearly weigh what each side presents in order to determine if it’s in their best interest to proceed with a trial or drop some or all charges from criminal proceedings entirely.

For this reason, having an experienced attorney on hand who can evaluate all available information and present a water-tight defense for their clients is important for anyone facing potential charges for criminal offenses.

Plea Deals

Plea Deals are arrangements that defendants agree to with prosecutors as an alternative to going to trial. The defendant pleads guilty in a criminal case to a lesser offense or fewer charges than initially alleged by the prosecution.

In some cases, the charge may be dropped altogether. This is most likely when a defendant is a first-time offender, though individual facts and circumstances can also influence prosecutorial discretion.

Underlying motives for making plea bargains include the need to reduce court congestion and the economy of time and resources in resolving disputes. An attorney should usually be consulted if there is an offer of a plea bargain.

Representation at different stages throughout the process by competent counsel will create better chances for successful negotiations and ultimately beneficial outcomes for defendants in felonies being reduced or dismissed with no more jail time or court supervision.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is an important factor that can impact whether a felony charge will be dropped. It is a law that sets a limit on how long an individual can wait before filing criminal charges in serious cases.

The length of the statute of limitations varies depending on the severity of the crime and it typically begins to run from the date a crime has been committed. In some instances, there are no statutes of limitations while in other cases, they may be as short as one year.

Once the time period has lapsed, then prosecutors would not be allowed to file formal charges unless new evidence arises or laws change on statutes of limitation for felonies. As such, it is important for victims to keep track of this time period as this could have an impact on their ability to secure justice in such cases.

If a case is brought after the statute has expired, then it would likely be dismissed by courts due to lack of sufficient evidence or jurisdiction and thus should not be pursued any further. Thus, understanding the concept and application statute of limitation could be crucial in determining whether felony charges will eventually be dropped or not.

Common Reasons for Dropping a Felony Charge

When it comes to felony charges, there are a lot of factors that can cause them to be dropped. In some cases, a lack of solid evidence, improper arrest procedures, or dismissed witnesses may lead to a dropped charge.

Also, if the crime is a minor one and the accused person has a clean record, the prosecutor may choose to reduce the charges or even dismiss them entirely. Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons why felony charges may be dropped.

Insufficient Evidence

When the original police investigation fails to uncover sufficient evidence for the prosecutor to prove the underlying crime, a felony charge may be dropped. Furthermore, in some cases, new information emerges that is beneficial to the defense. This could also result in a felony charge being dropped or reduced to a misdemeanor.

Suppressing evidence can also be grounds for dropping a felony charge. This happens when new evidence arises during trial indicating that the arresting police officers violated certain constitutional rights of the accused. This could include illegal search and seizure, or the use of excessive force during an arrest.

In cases where incriminating evidence was obtained through an illegal search and seizure, then courts may find it necessary to “suppress” this evidence from consideration – meaning that any data collected by law enforcement as part of their investigation cannot be used against you in court.

However, if law enforcement can prove probable cause or that they acted within legal search and seizure guidelines did advance notice before entry, or had the authority to enter premises then this protection is debatable in certain circumstances which is why it’s important to discuss all options with an experienced criminal lawyer when faced with criminal charges resulting from overreaching law enforcement officers.

Additionally, if the original witness responsible for providing information regarding a crime fails to appear in court due to duress or other factors this could also lead to derailing prosecution efforts and result in a dismissal of a given felony charge against someone accused of criminal activity.

The specific circumstances will determine if any protections are available based on witness termination which is why it’s beneficial to seek legal guidance prior to attempting riskier maneuvers such as confronting witnesses yourself or trying directly influence them into recanting their statements given before an official judicial proceeding takes place involving these witnesses on record.

Prosecutorial Discretion

Prosecutorial discretion is the most common reason for dropping a felony charge. This is when the prosecuting attorney decides that it would not be in the best interests of justice to pursue charges against a defendant or to drop certain charges due to the nature of the case or evidence that may or may not exist.

This means that even if there is enough evidence for an indictment, a prosecutor can decide to drop all felony charges against an individual.

There are other circumstances in which felony charges can be dropped. A plea bargain between the defendant and prosecutor may result in some of the charges being dropped in exchange for guilty pleas on lesser counts, or an agreement not to file additional charges if certain conditions are met.

Additionally, new evidence obtained by officers can result in prosecutors deciding to drop felony charges due to a lack of credibility of witnesses, holes in witness testimony, or advancements in forensic science such as DNA testing that shift blame away from a defendant.

Finally, when a defendant has successfully completed court-ordered treatment programs such as drug rehab, mental health evaluations, and counseling services, prosecutors can elect to no longer pursue criminal prosecutions on those cases.

Constitutional Violations

A felony charge can be dropped if there are constitutional violations in the manner that the accused was arrested or searches were conducted. If a law enforcement officer does not adhere to certain procedures or protocols and it affects the case against an individual, the charge may be dropped.

Important constitutional rights include, but are not limited to, protection from unreasonable search and seizure, protection from self-incrimination, protection from double jeopardy, due process protections, and rights to legal counsel. Defendants must clearly show that their rights were violated in order for their charges to be dropped.

This involves providing supporting evidence including facts about what happened and copies of any documents related to the case, such as police reports and affidavits. Without clear proof of these violations by law enforcement officials, the charges will not likely be dropped.

How Often Do Felony Charges Get Dropped

Felony charges can be very serious with potentially life-altering consequences. But one potential outcome is often overlooked – how often do felony charges actually get dropped? Dropping charges is certainly a possibility depending on the circumstances, but just how often does it happen? To answer this question, we’ll look at various studies on this topic.

National Statistics

A study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) found that felonies are more likely to be dismissed than misdemeanors. The study, which took a statistical look at the processing of felony cases in 10 states from 2004 to 2009, showed that around 27% of all felony cases studied were later dismissed by the prosecution.

In some states, the number was much higher than average. For example, close to 60% of felony allegations were dropped or otherwise not filed in Delaware. Although this may sound high, it’s important to note that not all dismissals of felony charges necessarily involve innocent defendants or victims.

In many cases, prosecutors simply recognize they don’t have enough evidence to make a conviction stand up in court and so they drop the charges before the trial even takes place.

There are a variety of reasons why prosecutors might decide to completely drop felonies or downgrade them to misdemeanors. For example, if an alleged victim withdraws their support for a case after filing criminal charges, then prosecutors may find it difficult to pursue the case any further and choose instead to drop it altogether.

Likewise, when prosecutors become convinced that someone is actually innocent and there is no real evidence available to prove otherwise then they may decide against pursuing a conviction as well.

In addition, if witnesses change their stories after giving sworn testimonies or become unavailable during trial proceedings then these too can contribute towards making convictions less likely for prosecutors in criminal cases involving felonies.

State-by-State Breakdown

Understanding how often felony charges are dropped can be difficult to assess due to variability among state laws and court proceedings. Still, research into the topic can provide important insight into trends in criminal justice and the various levels of proceedings associated with a felony case.

At a broad level, lower-level felonies may have higher rates of declination than more serious felonies.

Analysts have identified a range of factors that might affect charging decisions: the severity and type of offense, whether an arrest occurred at the time of filing charges, the suspect’s criminal history, the use and availability of evidence such as video footage or tangible property related to the crime, circumstances surrounding the filing of charges such as plea negotiations before arraignment, and other local or state rules that prosecutors must adhere to when making charging decisions.

Most states have laws governing prosecutors’ ability to pursue or terminate criminal cases at their discretion. On a state-by-state level, declination is typically reported differently among jurisdictions (e.g., misdemeanor vs. felony), prosecutor offices (local vs county vs state), or in large databases with many variables such as conviction rate breakdowns by race/ethnicity/gender/age, etc.

Each jurisdiction’s case outcomes will be significantly influenced by local prosecutor office practices and policies including plea negotiations that take place before formal adjudication, diversionary programs like deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) offered by some district attorney offices which can result in dismissal without arraignment or even trial on some eligible cases, or other strategies employed by different prosecutor agencies which often influence whether a violent crime was ultimately charged as misdemeanor versus felony, etc.

Moreover, not all court records track full resolution details beyond those disposed within formal trials because inconclusive ‘not guilty’ verdicts do not necessarily mean the charges were dropped–returning nolle prosequi dispositions is another factor that could have shaped overall declination rates we see across states today.

States also differ in terms of pre-trial diversion options available which also introduces a certain degree of variability when tracking overall disposition outcomes among different locations.

Impact of Legal Representation

If you are facing felony charges, hiring a seasoned criminal defense attorney can be one of the most important decisions you make. An experienced attorney can review all of the evidence against you and determine whether any of your constitutional rights were violated during the investigation, which may lead to the charges being dropped.

Additionally, lawyers may use their understanding of state laws, court procedures and jury dynamics to negotiate a plea deal with prosecutors in which charges are downgraded or dropped altogether in exchange for a guilty plea.

There is no set answer to how often felony charges get dropped because each case is different and circumstances vary widely. However, if faced with serious criminal charges, it is comforting to know that most felony cases never come to trial as they are typically resolved through negotiation prior to trial.

Having an experienced attorney on your side – who pays attention to every detail of your case – will give you the best chance at a favorable outcome status such as dropped or reduced charges.


It is difficult to make a definitive conclusion about how often felony charges are dropped, as the rate of charge dismissal varies by jurisdiction and the strength of each particular case.

Data has shown that the drop rate for felonies across jurisdictions is anywhere between 11 and 61%, however in more serious felony cases such as violent crimes, the dismissal rate tends to be much lower.

In addition to factors such as jurisdiction and crime severity, other things that may affect how likely it is for a felony charge to be dropped include whether or not sufficient evidence exists or if there are any mitigating circumstances (such as self-defense) that may apply.

It is important for anyone facing criminal charges to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney who may provide guidance on their situation and help them understand their rights.

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