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What is a Motion to Dismiss in Criminal Cases?

Sometimes a legal claim that can be terminated by a document called a Motion to Dismiss that is brought to the court usually by the Defendant’s attorney. However, either side can request that the Complaint or action brought for legal consideration by a Plaintiff be dismissed from the presiding court. This can be done for many different reasons, including the following.


When the plaintiff and defendant decide to settle their differences, a motion to dismiss may be presented to the court. The settlement proceedings may take place informally in telephone conferences between the parties’ attorneys, or during a more formal proceedings, such as the pretrial conference. Sometimes a mediation conference is recommended by the court, and if both parties agree, they may be able to reach consensus on the terms of settlement, resolving the case with no further need of legal action in the court system.

Technical errors.

Sometimes mistakes can be made in filing documents related to a particular claim. The plaintiff may miss the attorney’s stated deadline for providing relevant evidence, such as medical bills, for filing with the lawsuit. The Defendant may inadvertently or intentionally provide the wrong evidence requested by the attorney, such as an alibi, doctor’s note, or other information that supports his or her claim of innocence or mitigating circumstances. Missing a deadline, providing inadequate or erroneous documentation, or failing to provide necessary information could lead to a Motion for Dismissal. Even something as simple as writing the wrong date on a legal document could be cause for dismissal, albeit with the intention to refile the case later.

Plaintiff request.

During the discovery phase of litigation, the plaintiff may begin to see that available evidence does not clearly support his or her claims for compensation. Damaging evidence to the contrary may in fact turn up, which could cause the plaintiff to file a motion of dismissal in recognizance of the fact that the claim will not be supportable in court proceedings. Personal or extenuating circumstances that may interfere with the litigation process may also influence a plaintiff to request a dismissal, such as changing health or family situations.

Defendant demand.

From the beginning of the claim process, the defendant may become aware of facts that have a bearing on the plaintiff’s case or that favor his or her own position. As that information becomes clear and available, supporting the defendant against the plaintiff’s claims, the defendant may decide to file a motion for dismissal if the case appears to weaken or be unsustainable during the legal process.

Claim evaluation.

Errors of all kinds, accidental as well as a deliberate intent to deceive by one or both parties, may lead to a motion to dismiss. For example, in a car accident claim, if it becomes evident during discovery that the victim who is claiming losses deserving of monetary compensation is found to be lying, exaggerating, or otherwise misrepresenting his or her injuries and financial losses as evident in documents provided to the attorneys or in court proceedings, the Defendant may file a motion to dismiss with the court, citing the falsified or unverifiable facts of the claim. Likewise, the court officials presiding over the various hearings of the case, or during a settlement conference, may come to the conclusion that the claim is insupportable or too weak to merit legal consideration. At that point the official might recommend to plaintiff that the case be dismissed for lack of clear cause and strong evidence.

A motion for dismissal can be a positive or negative action in a legal proceeding. It depends on the reason why it is filed with the court and how the court rules on it. A dismissal with prejudice means that the plaintiff cannot file another claim on the same issue; dismissal without prejudice allows the plaintiff to file on the same matter subsequently, if desired. When considering this type of action in a legal case, discuss it thoroughly with an experienced attorney to be sure you understand the immediate and long-term ramifications of a motion to dismiss the case in which you are involved.

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