What does it mean if your criminal charges are dismissed “with prejudice?”

On Behalf of | Jun 21, 2021 | Criminal Law |

Criminal cases — particularly serious ones — don’t get dismissed that often. But dismissals do happen.

In rare instances, the prosecution may ask the court to dismiss a case (usually because they realize they don’t have enough evidence for a conviction). Almost all of the time, the defense will ask for a case to be dismissed on any legal grounds they can muster, as a matter of course.

What exactly does that mean for you, however, if your charges are dismissed? It depends.

Your legal troubles may not be over when your case is dismissed

When a legal case is dismissed, the court will do so either “with prejudice” or “without prejudice.” There’s a big difference between the two.

If your criminal charges are dismissed with prejudice, that means the court has looked at the merits of the case and made a final determination that the case should not move forward. For you, that means your ordeal is over. The prosecutor is barred from refiling the charges at any future point.

If your charges are dismissed without prejudice, however, you may be looking over your shoulder for a very long time. The prosecutor has until the statute of limitations on the crime runs out to refile the charges against you — and they might, if you were charged with a serious crime. For you, that could amount to a lifetime of anxiety and stress.

Take, for example, the recent case involving a Montana woman who claims she killed her ex-spouse in self-defense after he raped and beat her. She alleges she was never taken seriously as a victim by the police or prosecutor — and it appears the evidence against her was very thin.

The judge in her case apparently agreed with the defense attorney’s assertion that it was critically unfair to dismiss the case without prejudice — as the prosecutor wanted. By dismissing the charges with prejudice, the woman will no longer have to worry about facing those charges in the future.

When you’re facing serious criminal charges, your case can quickly get complicated

There are lots of nuances in criminal law that most people don’t understand. Don’t take chances on your future. An experienced legal  advocate can protect your rights and make sure that you’re treated fairly in court.