Can a Criminal Case Be Dismissed?

A case dismissal means the charges against you are canceled. Your case will not move forward, and you are free from criminal liability.

You can seek a case dismissal by submitting a request with the court, called a motion. The statute your motion is filed under, and the process for pursuing it, depends on whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. In either situation, a judge will review your request and decide whether to grant it.

If the judge approves your motion, your case will be dismissed. If they reject it, your case proceeds. Still, that doesn't mean all hope is lost. You can seek a favorable outcome by negotiating a plea deal with the prosecutor or presenting your arguments at trial.

At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our lawyers pursue available options to work toward optimal results for our Los Angeles clients. If you need legal representation, please contact us at (800) 462-7160.

Explaining a Case Dismissal

Generally, a court will consider dismissing your case after you have filed a motion stating that a mistake or lack of evidence erroneously led to charges. If it finds that your arguments are warranted, it may grant your request.

If your case is dismissed, you are not convicted of the alleged offense. You also avoid having criminal penalties imposed upon you.

Requesting a Case Dismissal

The motion you submit to request a case dismissal depends on whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.

Dismissing a Misdemeanor

For a misdemeanor charge, you would file a 991 motion. You can make this request only if you are in custody at the time of your arraignment and have pleaded not guilty.

You bring your 991 motion during your arraignment, which should happen within 48 hours of your arrest. With this motion, you are asking the court to determine whether probable cause existed that the alleged crime was committed and you were the one who committed it. Probable cause means that it is more likely than not that the crime happened.

The judge will consider your arguments, police reports, and other preliminary evidence relevant to your case. If they agree that there wasn't probable cause, you win your motion, and your case is dismissed. You will be released from jail and no longer required to answer for the crime. However, the prosecutor can appeal the judge's decision and refile charges against you within 15 days of the dismissal.

If the judge does not side with you, your case will be set for trial.

Dismissing a Felony

The process for requesting to have your case dismissed for a felony charge is like that for a misdemeanor. However, the 995 motion is filed after the preliminary hearing instead of at the arraignment. The preliminary hearing is where evidence is presented concerning the grounds for the arrest, and the judge determines whether probable cause existed to believe that you committed the alleged crime.

In your 991 motion, you can argue that your case should be dismissed because:

  • The judge made a mistake (such as allowing evidence that shouldn't have been admitted or applying an incorrect legal standard) and unlawfully committed you, or
  • You were indicted or committed without probable cause.

As with a 991 motion, if the judge agrees with your arguments, they may dismiss the case, and the prosecutor can appeal. If the judge disagrees with your assertions, your case will go to trial.

Options If Your Case Isn't Dismissed

Unfortunately, the judge might reject your motion to dismiss. However, that doesn't mean a conviction is guaranteed. You still have options to fight your charge and pursue a just outcome.

One of the avenues you can take is negotiating a plea deal with the prosecutor.

With a plea deal, you agree to plead guilty, and the prosecutor agrees to:

  • Pursue a lesser charge,
  • Drop some of the charges, or
  • Recommend a lighter sentence.

Your other option is to have your case heard in court. A judge or jury will listen to the evidence you and the prosecutor present. They will then determine whether you are guilty of the alleged offense.

Contact Our Firm for Help

A case dismissal is possible, but it's not a surefire way to resolve a criminal matter. The judge could deny your motion to dismiss, in which case you would have to negotiate a plea or go to trial. Whatever path your case takes, having a criminal defense attorney on your side can help you navigate it. They can explain your options and prepare and file your paperwork, build your defense, and argue on your behalf.

To discuss your case with a member of our Los Angeles team, please contact Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP at (800) 462-7160.