The “No Papering” of a Criminal Offense in Washington, DC

by Jamison Koehler on May 24, 2010

If you have had the misfortune of being arrested in Washington, D.C, the words “no paper” should be about the most welcome thing you can hear.

The two words could mean that the prosecution has decided that you never should have been arrested to begin with.  More likely, they mean that the government has decided it is not worth the time and trouble to pursue the charges.  Maybe the circumstances of the arrest are constitutionally suspect.  Maybe a key witness is refusing to cooperate.

Whatever the reason, “no paper” means that you were arrested but never charged with the offense.

You are very unlikely to ever hear:  “We’re very sorry to have troubled you with this arrest.  How can we compensate you for your time and trouble?”  But it is probably not a wise idea to ask for an apology anyway. Although it rarely happens, the prosecution can always decide to resurrect the charges later.  Your major concern at the time of a “no paper” should be to determine whether or not you are eligible to have your arrest record “sealed.”  (I’ll have to do a separate entry on the sealing of  criminal arrests and records.)

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. usually doesn’t make the decision to “no paper” a case until a day or two before the arraignment.  You can tell who the lucky people are on the day of the arraignment:  They are usually the ones whose cases are called out first.

10 Comments on “The “No Papering” of a Criminal Offense in Washington, DC

  1. I’ve had some success with this in Georgia. Presenting the weaknesses in the case to the prosecution prior to indictment. In the past year, I’ve had three cases where they dismissed the warrant. And like you said, the first thing I tried to do after the dismissal was to get the arrest expunged–which isn’t always easy to do in Georgia.

  2. Man, something like this could be a real blessing. But I take it this is only for cases where after an immediate arrest the DA decides not to pursue anything, correct?

  3. I was “no papered” on a mistaken arrest 25 yrs ago but the crime is still showing up on my record and this has become a real problem, as I am innocent. How do i get the misdeameanor erased from my record????

  4. Is it possible to talk to a prosecutor before the arraignment in order to present an argument for a “no paper” decision?

  5. Mr. Koehler,

    I was picked up 10/80 for an armed robbery I did not commit the result was the nice words of which you spoke, “no papers”. However, I have found that this situation keeps coming up and it is impeding my employment some times. How can I address this?

  6. Sir, I found your site to be extremely informative and would just like to take a few moments out to say thank you. I also see that you respond to questions from individuals seeking advice and assistance from you. This is a rare thing nowadays. thank you.
    Mr. Hinton

  7. Once the case has been no papered, is there a way for your attorney to find out the reason the DA decided not to pursue charges; Like if they find there was no probable cause for a search?

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