When a person is arrested and charged with a serious felony, a “not guilty” pronouncement is not the only outcome preventing someone from jail time. A judge could dismiss the case. In North Dakota, a high-profile drug case ended with a dismissal.

A recent case in federal court involved a married couple from California who was pulled over by state troopers for following another vehicle too closely. The trooper reportedly intended to issue a warning and said that the couple provided conflicting answers about their destination. Other aspects of the traffic stop increased the trooper’s suspicions, so he called in a request for a dog capable of detecting drugs. The driver allegedly did grant the trooper permission to search the vehicle.

After reportedly finding drugs in the glove compartment, the trooper had the car impounded. Later, a more extensive search is said to have uncovered more drugs. Police said they uncovered 67 pounds of drugs.

In federal court, however, the judge noted that the traffic stop was “illegally prolonged.” The judge also ruled that the driver and passenger’s “suspicious” behavior did not automatically indicate criminal intent. The judge ordered the suppression of the evidence, which then led to an order to dismiss the charges.

The incident illustrates how a judge could rule against law enforcement after an arrest. Judges might dismiss charges for lack of evidence, illegally obtained evidence, lack of probable cause, no search warrant, coerced confessions and other reasons.

Criminal law statutes are designed to to preserve the accused’s rights. A criminal defense attorney might examine a case to look for improprieties that may warrant the dismissal of charges. Criminal defense attorneys petition for the dismissals of criminal charges in courtrooms across the United States, and the particulars of the dismissals may lead the judge to rule in the defense’s favor.