What is a Felony Dismissal Date?
Sometimes a defendant who has been accused of a felony offense is actually innocent! Yes, believe it or not, it is possible to be falsely or wrongly accused of a crime. Or, in some cases, perhaps their guilt is in question and there’s not sufficient evidence to support a conviction. Whatever the case, the fact is that sometimes a defendant finds themselves in the fortunate position of being close to having their name cleared of the charges levied against them.
This is called dismissal. Other times, a dismissal may be granted based on an oversight or failure on the part of the prosecution. A prosecutor is held to a strict deadline when filing for a criminal indictment. This date is called a dismissal date, and if a prosecutor has not filed an indictment in the circuit court by this deadline, then the criminal case can be dismissed automatically.
There’s not much a felon can do to influence the prosecution to miss that deadline, of course; nonetheless, sometimes dismissal is not always an event that occurs without a defendant’s participation. It never hurts to be actively involved in understanding one’s own case, especially when the outcome could end up with one going to prison for a few decades! So let’s take a look at the process and learn more about felony dismissal and felony dismissal dates.
Felony Dismissal… How It Works
If a case has a defendant, there is also a plaintiff, which is the person or entity driving the criminal charge against the defendant. Sometimes a plaintiff might just forego their desire to pursue a charge and they might just decide to drop all the charges, which can also lead to dismissal. Obviously this outcome is a defendant’s dream come true.
A plaintiff who does this might lose their right to ever reopen the case, meaning the dismissal was ‘with prejudice.’ But other times a plaintiff retains the option to basically change their mind again and pursue the case, meaning the dismissal is ‘without prejudice.’ It’s conditional, depending on the plaintiff’s whim, and the decision to reopen the criminal case against the accused perpetrator will depend on certain terms agreed upon between plaintiff and defendant (via their lawyers, naturally) beforehand.
For example, if a defendant agrees to pay financial restitution to the plaintiff, as part of their dismissal ‘deal,’ they may have charges dismissed but only on the condition that they actually pay. If they don’t pay, the dismissal may be overturned. The plaintiff holds the upper hand because all they have to do is reopen the charges.
So in some ways, this is not an ideal situation because a defendant, though technically not found guilty of a crime, is nonetheless forced to follow through with certain conditions in order to avoid charges being pressed.
It is, if one thinks about it, similar to the definition of blackmail, i.e. to ‘demand money from (a person) in return for not revealing compromising or injurious information about that person.’ And yet, for many, this solution works better than moving on with a case that one could potentially lose. It’s basically being caught between a rock and a hard place.
A qualified attorney can help a defendant in determining the potential for a dismissal, as well as the wisdom (or not) in even wanting a dismissal if the terms are unreasonable. They can work with the plaintiff’s attorney—the prosecution—and attempt to work out a solution which involves dismissal so that the case doesn’t have to move to indictment and on to trial.
Even if a trial seems unavoidable, an attorney’s job is to do everything they can to get the case dismissed based on failure on the part of the prosecution to provide enough evidence to indict. In other words, the defendant is there to try and trip up the other guy, and visa versa. Law is a cutthroat profession, and one requires the services of an experienced professional when trying to maneuver. You’d never sit down to a high stakes card game if you even know how to play the game!
If a defendant’s attorney is going to find a way to move towards dismissal, this would be handled at the district court level in most cases.
Intentional Versus Accidental Dismissal
The above scenarios might be considered intentional dismissal, because the parties work together towards that goal. But if the parties cannot agree to such a situation, then the only other form of dismissal at this point is, as stated earlier, the accidental failure to file an indictment prior to the dismissal date.
If the prosecutor doesn’t drop the ball and they meet their deadline, then the case moves on to a circuit court, and options become limited. So it is crucial to pursue any form of intentional dismissal before that time, if desired.
The prosecution has a deadline to submit the case to a circuit court, so it is incumbent upon the defense to act quickly and not delay any moves towards seeking dismissal or, if dismissal isn’t really in the cards, then at least a lessening of the charges.
If a case is complex and involves more than one charge, it is possible that a district count isn’t able to do much because of the scope of the crime and jurisdiction boundaries. The state itself might have to then decide upon the feasibility of a felony dismissal or lessening of charges.
Breakdown of the Dismissal Timeline
To summarize the process as a whole, first a judge reads the formal charges to a defendant during a felony arraignment hearing. The defendant, with their attorney, begins to consider their options for their defense strategy. A hearing date is determined, set within 10 days of the arraignment itself. In some cases, a preliminary hearing is asked for; this can be beneficial if a case seems especially flimsy, because perhaps a dismissal is just sitting there waiting to happen.
If the prosecutor cannot prove there is at least a reasonable likelihood that a defendant is guilty of the accused crime, then the case is unlikely to proceed much further. Otherwise, it will go to a second arraignment to acquire additional information. During this phase the defense makes their move for dismissal, if possible. But if no plea bargain is reached or dismissal granted, then a pretrial is set up around a month or so after the second arraignment, followed by an actual trial date…again, only if no agreement is reached. Actually most cases never go to an actual trial. Please also see or article about “Plea Bargain Scams.”
Throughout these hearings, it remains incumbent upon the prosecution to stick to their deadlines in order to avoid dismissal of the case on the grounds that the defendant is not receiving their ‘speedy trial’ (a right granted by the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution).
We already mentioned dismissal with and without prejudice but a couple of last notes… don’t forget that dismissal without prejudice can be reopened later, based on the plaintiff or, in some cases, based on if extra evidence has been discovered. So this is a major difference from dismissal with prejudice, after which a defendant does not have to worry too much about the case coming back to haunt them.
That said, in closing—any time a defendant is able to get a dismissal, for whatever reason, it is always wise to keep their wits about them, retain a solid attorney, and be ready for some potential issue that could come back later. We hope that this has answered your question “What is a Felony Dismissal Date?”