Having a prosecutor file a "No Information Notice" on a first-degree
murder charge is something few attorneys will experience in their career.
The charges against my client were dismissed with very little litigation
and without the necessity of a trial.
The term "No Information" is used in many criminal jurisdictions
to describe a prosecutor's decision to discontinue or abandon a criminal
prosecution. In filing a "No Information Notice", the State
Attorney's Office is essentially stating that the case, in its current
form, is not suitable for prosecution. The legal effect of this pleading
is that the State has dismissed the
criminal case pending against the defendant.
A prosecutor is often judged by the amount of convictions they obtain.
However, I would submit a prosecutor is better judged, not merely by the
amount of convictions they obtain, but by the amount of cases they voluntary
dismiss after careful review.
Simply because a police officer has made a decision that a certain person
has committed a certain crime does not make it true. It's important
that a prosecutor does not seek to simply support the arrest decisions
of a police officer but rather they seek to independently investigate
and determine if it is appropriate to pursue prosecution. This is easier
said than done in the face of many pressures and burdens.
Reasons for Prosecution to Dismiss a Case
It's easy enough for a prosecutor to pursue a trial. Equally, a prosecutor
can attempt to resolve a case by offering a substantial downward departure
in sentencing from what the defendant faces or a plea to a lesser crime.
Offering a defendant a conviction to a lesser crime or a lesser sentence
in order to get a conviction and not dismiss a case is often very effective.
While the prosecutor may lose at trial or the plea result may not be as
glamorous for the prosecution, the prosecutor can maintain that he or
she put forth his or her best effort to obtain a conviction and attribute
the loss or lesser plea deal to a lack of evidence or other circumstances.
However, a prosecutor who is willing voluntarily dismiss a case must be
willing to withstand the scrutiny of law enforcement, the community and
their superiors. It takes courage and integrity on the part of the prosecutor
to exclaim that, in spite of law enforcement's belief and/or in spite
of a victim or witnesses belief that a certain person has committed a
certain crime, he or she does not believe a defendant has committed the
crime or does not believe that they can prove it in good faith.
Prosecutors Powered by Discretion
One of the positive characteristics of the Office of the State Attorney
for the Ninth Judicial Circuit for the State of Florida is that State
Attorney Jeffery Ashton has empowered his prosecutors with discretion.
There are many State Attorney offices in Florida where the goal appears
not to be the pursuit of justice but rather the pursuit of convictions.
In many jurisdictions, a prosecutor would sooner lose at trial than ever
file a No Information Notice and voluntarily dismiss a case.
My client faced first-degree murder charges and a life sentence. We had
an intrepid defense and would have proceeded to trial if forced to do
so. But what if the wind was taken out of our sails? Imagine if the prosecutor
assigned to his case was afraid to file a dismissal or had the misguided
desire to seek a conviction in lieu of a dismissal. For instance, if the
prosecutor had opted to offer my client a plea to a lesser charge of manslaughter
and probation would my client have opted to extinguish his risk of trial
and a life sentence and take the deal? Perhaps in that scenario, my client
would have opted to take the 'innocent man offer' (an offer so
good that even if you're innocent you'll take it) and would now
be a convicted felon.
The Job of the Prosecution: To Seek Justice
A prosecutor's job is not to seek convictions but rather to seek justice.
It is important a prosecutor has the integrity and courage to do so. It's
equally important he or she has the support of his or her office in that
pursuit so that he or she has the confidence to do so. Defendants, by
title, are still fathers, daughters, teachers, servicemen and members
of our community. A weak prosecutor, or one with a flawed compass, can
ignore the proposition of justice and wrongfully destroy an innocent person's
future. In my client's case, justice prevailed.
To learn more about your legal options,
contact our firm! We offer free initial case evaluations.