Prosecutors in New Jersey and around the country usually resolve narcotics cases at the negotiating table, but there are situations where drug possession, distribution and trafficking charges are dropped before plea negotiations begin. Prosecutors sometimes decide not to move forward against individuals accused of breaking drug laws because they have agreed to cooperate and provide information about criminals who are considered a greater threat to society, but the decision to drop a drug case is more often made because the police officers involved made an error of some sort or infringed on rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Drug cases might be dropped because criminal defense attorneys successfully argue that police searches violated Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Judges may consider a search illegal even if police obtain a search warrant if the warrant was issued based on insufficient probable cause. Evidence seized during searches could also be excluded when police officers failed to stay within the scope of the search warrant as laid down by the issuing judge or magistrate.
Mistakes and corruption
When police corruption is uncovered and investigators discover that suspects were charged or convicted because corrupt officers planted drugs or lied in court, prosecutors may have little choice but to dismiss pending drug charges. Narcotics charges may also be dropped if police officers make procedural errors such as not giving suspects Miranda warnings before conducting interviews.
Plea agreements in drug cases
When police appear to have acted correctly and the evidence against their clients is strong, experienced criminal defense attorneys might offer guilty pleas to prosecutors in return for reduced charges or more lenient sentences. Attorneys may also make arguments based on mitigating factors such as remorse and prior good conduct.