Being charged with a crime doesn’t automatically mean your case will go to trial. If your attorney deems the charges are unwarranted or that the prosecution lacks enough evidence to secure a conviction, she may file a Motion to Dismiss. When granted, this motion effectively cancels the case, and the charges against you are dropped.
Understanding the Motion to Dismiss
The Motion to Dismiss is a common pre-trial motion, used in both criminal and civil suits, that simply asks the courts to throw out the case. The law affords you certain protections when you’re charged with a crime: for example, you can’t be lawfully tried for a particular crime after a certain period of time has passed since the alleged crime occurred (known as the Statute of Limitations), neither can you be tried in a court that has no jurisdiction over your case. In cases like these, a Motion to Dismiss can be an effective pre-trial strategy, and if the judge grants the motion, the charges against you are dropped.
It’s important to understand that the Motion to Dismiss does not address your guilt or innocence, but simply challenges the terms or validity of the case itself. Likewise, cases are not dismissed simply because someone asks for it, which is why it’s important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney who can determine whether there are valid reasons to argue for the dismissal of your case, and who can express these arguments effectively.
REASONS FOR FILING A MOTION TO DISMISS
There are number of valid reasons why a case can and should be thrown out of court. Here are a few of the more common reasons why your attorney may file a Motion to Dismiss:
- Statute of Limitations. Both federal and state laws put a time limit on certain alleged crimes as to when the state may try you for them. This time limit varies according to the crime. If your attorney can show that the Statute of Limitations has expired for the charges in question, the court must dismiss the case.
- Lack of due process during the arrest. The police must follow certain procedures when arresting people for alleged crimes. If you were arrested under mere suspicion without due process or just cause, the resulting charges may be dropped.
- No jurisdiction. You can only be tried in a court that has lawful jurisdiction over your case, depending on where the crime occurred—for example, if the crime occurred on federal lands, the state may not be able to try you for the crime. If it can be shown that the court doesn’t have lawful jurisdiction over the alleged crime, the case must be thrown out.
- Errors in filing the complaint. When the prosecution formally charges you, the complaint or indictment must follow certain procedures in communicating what you’re charged with, and why. If the complaint fails to meet these procedures, and for any reason it becomes difficult to correct those errors, your attorney may present a convincing argument that those charges shouldn’t have been filed in the first place.
- Lack of admissible evidence. Before the trial, your attorney will be able to review the body of evidence the prosecution has gathered against you. If certain individual pieces of evidence are improperly obtained, your attorney may file a Motion to Exclude Evidence to keep that evidence from being presented at trial. However, if a significant amount of evidence is inadmissible, or if there is any doubt that the prosecution has enough evidence to secure a conviction, a Motion to Dismiss may convince the judge not to move forward with the case.
Our Experience with Motions to Dismiss
A Motion to Dismiss is most likely to be granted if the attorney filing the motion has a clear understanding of court procedures and can effectively argue specific reasons why the charges against you should not be brought to trail. The attorneys of the Federal Criminal Law Center have extensive experience in pre-trial motions and negotiations, both in the state courts of Georgia and in federal court, and they know when a Motion to Dismiss is most likely to work in your favor.