In Alabama, as elsewhere in the United States, when a person is charged with a crime, the state or federal government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. When the evidence is not sufficient, a smart criminal defense attorney will file a motion to dismiss. But lack of evidence is not the only reason to file a motion to dismiss. Other reasons exist, which is why it is important to retain the help of a criminal defense lawyer.
But there's another reason you need a criminal defense lawyer who knows how the system works: a motion to dismiss does not necessarily mean you will never be charged for the same crime again – it depends if the case was filed with prejudice or not, and a criminal defense lawyer will argue for dismissal with prejudice, which means the prosecutor cannot refile the same claim.
At Segal and Segal, our criminal defense lawyer in Huntsville and Madison County will review your case and file a motion to dismiss when appropriate. Typically, this type of motion is filed early in the case. To learn more about how we will represent you and defend your case, contact us at (256) 533 - 4529 to schedule a consultation.
Motion to Dismiss
A Motion to Dismiss is a request for the court to throw out a charge or charges against a defendant. It is a pretrial motion heard by a judge. There is no jury involved.
When a defendant files a Motion to Dismiss, they argue there is a problem with the legal basis of the charge, so the case should not proceed to trial. When a judge decides a motion to dismiss, they are not determining the defendant's guilt or innocence. They look at the legal validity of the charge itself.
Reasons to File a Motion to Dismiss in Alabama
Insufficient evidence, as mentioned above and as discussed briefly below, is one of the main reasons a motion to dismiss is filed, but other reasons exist. Some other common reasons are discussed below.
In a criminal trial, the prosecution must prove the charge against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. To do so, all elements of the crime must be satisfied, which is accomplished primarily through evidence. Evidence can be through eyewitnesses, expert witnesses, photographs, video, tangible evidence, and other forms.
If, in its totality, the evidence is not enough to prove the charge by satisfying all the elements of the offense, the defense can file a motion to dismiss due to insufficient evidence.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is a timeframe in which the prosecution can file charges against a defendant after committing a crime. Different offenses have different statutes of limitations. Once the statute of limitations has expired, charges cannot be brought.
If the prosecution charges a defendant outside of the statute of limitations, the defense may file a motion to dismiss.
Violation of the Right to a Speedy Trial
The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants all defendants the right to a speedy trial. Specifically, Amendment 6.2.3 states:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
Defendants are entitled to have their trial heard within a reasonable time, but different rules apply when the right is attached to the defendant. If there have been unreasonable delays, and the defendant is not at fault, the defense may file a motion to dismiss.
The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits double jeopardy, which means you cannot be tried for the same offense twice. Specifically, Amendment 5.2.2 states:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
A defendant acquitted of a charge cannot be prosecuted again for the same conduct. If this happens, the defense can file a dismissal motion based on double jeopardy.
Errors in Filing the Complaint
The authorities must follow specific procedures when charging a defendant, including explaining the charge. If this process isn't followed and cannot be fixed, the defense may file a motion to dismiss.
The above reasons are only some of the more common reasons a defendant may file a motion to dismiss. Other possible reasons include when:
- The defendant argues self-defense
- The prosecution and defense agree on the facts and only require the judge to determine whether the conduct was criminal.
- The court does not have jurisdiction to hear the charge
The legal basis of a motion to dismiss is unique to each case. Discussing your specific circumstances with a criminal defense attorney in Alabama is important in assessing your case.
Motion to Dismiss with Prejudice or without Prejudice
A criminal case can be dismissed before, during, or after a trial. It is typically the result of the defendant filing a motion to dismiss, as discussed above. In some cases, however, the prosecutor might file a motion to dismiss, or the court may dismiss a case without a motion. In any of these scenarios, when a case is dismissed, it is done with or without prejudice.
With or without prejudice are terms a defendant should understand because many think that when a judge grants a motion to dismiss, the defendant will never face the same charge for the same incident again. That is true when cases are dismissed with prejudice, but when cases are dismissed without prejudice, the prosecutor could later refile the charges.
In sum, a dismissal with prejudice means that a judge's order is the final judgment in the case, and the prosecutor cannot refile charges. In a dismissal without prejudice, the prosecutor can, in the future, either refile the charges or file new charges based on the same alleged criminal incident.
Dismissed Charges versus Dropped Charges in Alabama: What's the Difference?
Do not confuse dismissed charges with dropped charges. A judge dismisses charges after they have been filed, and the judge does so for many of the reasons listed above. Charges, however, that are dropped are typically dropped by a prosecutor who may do so for some of the reasons above or other reasons, like victims who will not cooperate.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney in Huntsville and Madison County Today
A well-argued motion to dismiss can be an important defense strategy. It can lead to successful plea negotiations with the prosecution or even the charges being dismissed entirely.
For these reasons, it's worth engaging a defense attorney who is an expert in pretrial motions. They can look at your matter and advise if there are any potential legal bases for a motion to dismiss. At Segal and Segal, our lawyers in Huntsville and Madison County will investigate your case and strategize accordingly, ensuring you understand the charges against you. Call us at (256) 533 - 4529 or complete our online submission form today to schedule a consultation.