When people are facing charges in court, the use of legal jargon all around them can be intimidating and confusing. Two commonly heard phrases regarding charges are “dismissed with prejudice” or “dismissed without prejudice.” It is important to know the distinction between them to understand what will happen next.
What Does “Dismissed with Prejudice” Mean in California?
The word “prejudice” has a different connotation in the legal sense than the secular. The legal term “prejudice” refers to the plaintiff’s legal claim and the damage sustained during the course of the trial.
For a case to be dismissed with prejudice, it means the plaintiff’s case has been legally damaged. The plaintiff is barred from any future legal endeavors regarding the same legal issue. Essentially, the plaintiff loses their legal right to any claim or relief.
A “dismissal with prejudice” effectively ends a case permanently. In terms of criminal charges, the prosecutor is barred from re-filing the same charges against the defendant with the same evidence. However, it should be noted that a prosecutor or the plaintiff can appeal the judge’s decision at a higher court.
Why Would a Case Be Dismissed with Prejudice?
Typically, the defendant initiates a motion to dismiss with prejudice to prevent the charges or lawsuit from being re-filed. In most cases, the motion is granted when there has been a fundamental violation of the defendant’s rights.
The California Constitution protects defendants from a variety of unlawful practices. A case may be dismissed with prejudice if:
- An arrest was made without probable cause
- A traffic stop was conducted without reasonable suspicion
- The search was conducted illegally or for unlawful grounds
- The DUI checkpoint was conducted using profiling instead of the accepted standard
The judge may also dismiss a case with prejudice if the defendant successfully completed a local diversion program or similar circumstances. A motion for dismissal with prejudice is rarely initiated by the prosecution. If you are facing charges that may qualify for a dismissal with prejudice, speak to a defense attorney in Los Angeles today to discuss the details of your situation.
What Does Dismissed without Prejudice Mean?
When a civil or criminal charge is “dismissed without prejudice,” it means that the plaintiff’s right to seek justice remains legally intact. The plaintiff should be aware that this type of dismissal will not affect the statute of limitations and other controlling factors.
There are many scenarios where a plaintiff or prosecutor may ask for a case to be dismissed without prejudice. For example:
- The plaintiff may need more time to strengthen their case
- The prosecutor may need to gather more evidence
- The circumstances of the crime have changed, and different charges need to be brought
In other cases, a judge may dismiss charges without prejudice to allow one side to address issues in their case. Whatever the reason, charges that are “dismissed without prejudice” can come back or be changed.
What Is a Voluntary Dismissal?
Voluntary dismissal may be specified as “dismissed without prejudice” or “dismissed with prejudice,” depending on the circumstances. The plaintiff must ask the judge for a voluntary dismissal of a case. Generally, a voluntary dismissal is requested if:
- The plaintiff and the defendant have reached a settlement or partial settlement
- The defendant has accepted a plea deal with the prosecution
- The plaintiff is not fully prepared for the court proceedings
- The prosecution has decided that pursuing the matter in court may not be the best course of action
A judge may then grant a dismissal of the charges or case. Typically, the prosecution or plaintiff will move to have a “dismissal without prejudice” in case they choose to re-file at a later date.
What Is an Involuntary Dismissal?
An involuntary dismissal of a case is done by a judge against the wishes of the prosecution or the plaintiff. Like a voluntary dismissal, an involuntary dismissal may also be with or without prejudice. A judge may determine that a case lacks sufficient evidence to proceed and may issue an involuntary dismissal to give the parties time to address any errors.
Some common reasons a case may be involuntarily dismissed occur when:
- The court lacks the proper subject matter jurisdiction to hear a case
- The court itself is the improper venue, and the case must be heard at a different courthouse
- The defendant was never served and has not received the lawsuit in question
- The court does not have the proper personal jurisdiction and has no power over the defendant
In other cases, a defendant may request an involuntary dismissal of a case. The prosecution or plaintiff will be allowed to respond. However, if their argument is not persuasive, a judge may dismiss the criminal charges or lawsuit.
Are There Time Limits for Re-Filing Dismissed Charges?
If a case is dismissed without prejudice and the prosecution or plaintiff has the right to re-file their claim, the statute of limitations still applies. A statute of limitations is a time limit on the ability of a claimant or government to file charges.
For example, in most personal injury lawsuits, a plaintiff has two years from the date of their accident or discovery of their injury to file a lawsuit. If they wait one year to file a lawsuit and the charges are dismissed without prejudice, the plaintiff may only re-file their motion within the next year. The statute of limitations does not start over.
In criminal court, the statute of limitations is as follows:
- Misdemeanors have 1 year to be filed
- Felony crimes may be pursued for up to 3 years
However, there are exceptions in criminal court. For instance, violent felony crimes like murder do not have a statute of limitations. In other cases, the statute of limitations is suspended, allowing the government additional time to mount a proper case.
Contact an Attorney for Help Today
A Los Angeles DUI attorney has years of experience representing accused individuals in court. We will investigate the details of your case and move for a dismissal of the charges, if possible. Schedule a consultation with our defense team today.