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If a person is indicted on criminal charges, but before trial the state decides to "drop the charges," can the state later bring the same charges?

I'm actually not even certain what formal actions might be referred to as "dropping charges" after an indictment. E.g., does the prosecution file a motion to "withdraw?" Can a consent decree with the defense halt the case? Can or do any of these actions prejudice the case? Perhaps an enumeration of the possible mechanisms would be helpful (as well as the consequences for future prosecutions in each scenario).

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In the United States, jeopardy attaches to a criminal trial when a jury is empanelled, the first witness is sworn in or guilty plea is accepted. Before that point the prosecution can dismiss the case without prejudice, allowing for charges to be brought again. After that point the prosecution can only dismiss the case with prejudice, effectively resulting in an acquittal and preventing a new trial on the same charges or charges based on the same facts.

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146 Withdrawal of charge

(1) The prosecutor may, with the leave of the court, withdraw a charge before the trial.

(2) The withdrawal of a charge under this section is not a bar to any other proceeding in the same matter.

(3) A Registrar may, in respect of any offence other than a category 4 offence, exercise the power under subsection (1) if the defendant consents to the prosecutor withdrawing the charge.

So,

If a person is indicted on criminal charges, but before trial the state decides to "drop the charges," can the state later bring the same charges?

Yes it can (and not only the state, anyone can as private prosecution is allowed — unless that is seen as abuse of process). Double jeopardy defence only works if previous charges have evolved to acquittal/conviction. If they were dropped (withdrawn) before entering that stage, new charges can be laid again.

does the prosecution file a motion to "withdraw?" Can a consent decree with the defense stop halt the case?

Yes, a formal application to withdraw is required. Unless the defendant consents to withdraw and it is not category 4 offence, approval by judge is needed.

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  • "Unless the defendant consents to withdraw [...]". Why would a defendant object to withdrawal? The premise that the prosecutor unilaterally files a motion to that effect implies that the prosecutor is not requiring the defendant to do anything in exchange for dropping the charges. – Iñaki Viggers Apr 11 '20 at 12:15
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    @IñakiViggers I don't know but that's what the law says pretty clearly you see. Guess some defendants may want to dot the i's and cross the t's by being acquitted — for their honour, to make sure the charges cannot be laid again etc. – Greendrake Apr 11 '20 at 12:34
  • Could be. I was thinking a defendant's motive might be to secure his chance to sue for malicious prosecution, but even there objecting to prosecutor's withdrawal imposes a "waste of judicial resources" on the underlying proceedings. – Iñaki Viggers Apr 11 '20 at 13:17
  • @Inaki If the evidence seems to be going against the prosecutor, the defendant might prefer a quick trial and acquittal over giving the prosecutor a chance to build their case up further. – cpast Apr 11 '20 at 14:29
  • @cpast Thanks for the input, but I would think that in that scenario the prosecutor could preempt a quick or fast-approaching trial (and thus get additional time to build the case up further) by moving to stay the proceedings, to extend discovery deadline, etc., rather than moving to withdraw. After all, withdrawal does not give much advantage to the prosecutor from the standpoint of tolling of limitations anyway. – Iñaki Viggers Apr 11 '20 at 18:54

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