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Legal Literacy To Dismiss With or Without Prejudice

Very few people pay any attention to the way a court case is dismissed. Why would they? All that matters is that the case is dismissed… right? Wrong! The way a court case is dismissed is extremely important and can lead to drastically different outcomes. A case may be dismissed “with or without prejudice” before, during, or after trial. At a basic level, this distinction determines whether a case can be retried, or if it has permanently concluded.

Cases can be dismissed before, during, or after trial. If a case is dismissed “with prejudice”, the decision is final. This means the prosecutor is prohibited from refiling the same charges. The case cannot be retried. Involuntary dismissals stemming from a defendant’s motion, followed by a judge granting that motion, are dismissed with prejudice. Cases are also dismissed with prejudice if a plaintiff chooses to dismiss the same claim for a second time.

A variety of factors may lead to a case being dismissed with prejudice. Dismissals frequently result from a clear and irreparable violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights. Completion of diversion programs have led to dismissals with prejudice in the past, but it is far from guaranteed. In most cases, a dismissal with prejudice occurs after a defendant’s motion is granted or the court decides to order its own dismissal.

The alternative to dismissal with prejudice is dismissal without prejudice. Dismissal without prejudice takes on a vastly different meaning for all involved in a case. When a case is dismissed without prejudice, a case ceases to go forward and a defendant is technically no longer charged with a crime. Despite this, the same charges that were dismissed, can later be retried. An individual dismissed without prejudice has not been officially deemed “not guilty”. In fact, many attorneys consider the situation to be more of a “temporary dismissal”. Prosecutors often refile the same charges at a later date. A dismissal without prejudice is usually requested by prosecutors or the judge.

Why would a prosecutor request a dismissal without prejudice? There are multiple reasons, but it’s almost always a strategic maneuver by the prosecution. Prosecutors may push for dismissal with prejudice to allow time for further investigations to produce new evidence. Factors not related to evidence can also be the cause for dismissal. A case may be dismissed so the prosecution can address serious procedural errors. Additional charges, defendants, or even a change of venue sometimes influence decisions to dismiss without prejudice. In other instances, prosecutors request a dismissal solely for strategic purposes. This gives the prosecution an opportunity to address weaknesses and strengthen their argument.

Judges often dismiss cases without prejudice too. When a judge chooses to independently dismiss a case without prejudice, it is commonly referred to as “involuntary dismissal without prejudice”. A judge may opt for dismissal for many different reasons. These factors include but are not limited to procedural errors in the case, violations of a defendant’s rights, or an incorrect venue. Even though a judge’s dismissal without prejudice could catch prosecutors by surprise, it leaves the door open for prosecutors to refile the charges again later.

Individuals have previously wondered what sort of affect a dismissal without prejudice would have on the statute of limitations. The answer is none. A dismissal without prejudice has no impact on the statute of limitations. A case and dismissal does not reset the statute or limitations or temporarily put anything on pause. No part of the timeline is altered. The statute of limitations will expire at the same time, as if charges were never even filed.

Dismissals are often confusing to individuals going through the legal process for the first time. It’s important to know how dismissals with or without prejudice can affect your case. Consulting with an attorney is the best way to fully understand potential benefits of drawbacks. To learn how a dismissal could apply to your matter, contact Strause Law Group, and consult with a knowledgeable attorney.