In a criminal cases – a lot happens before trial. The longest phase is discovery, where your defense lawyer investigates the allegations and gathers facts. The next phase is pretrial motions and is often the most critical because your lawyer uses the information, they collected to fight for you.

A motion is a formal request to the judge, asking them to decide an issue in the case. Your lawyer might file numerous pretrial motions depending on the circumstances. A significant one is a motion to dismiss. If this motion succeeds, your case is over, and you’re free to walk away.

Call Fienman Defense at (215) 839-9529 to learn about filing a motion to dismiss in Pennsylvania. Filing a motion to dismiss may be warranted. Even if it’s not, Michael Fienman will build the strongest possible defense. You also can reach out online to schedule a free consultation.

What is a Motion to Dismiss?

In a motion to dismiss, you ask the judge to end the case based on a specific substantive or procedural issue. The prosecutor also can ask for a dismissal if they agree to end the case permanently or want to temporarily end the case to refile with different charges or evidence later.

A Motion to Dismiss in Pennsylvania

Rule 587 (234 Pa. Code §587) controls motions to dismiss in Pennsylvania. It specifically describes the procedure if you argue that the charges weren’t filed in a reasonable time or the charges violate double jeopardy.

When a Lawyer Will File a Motion to Dismiss

Your lawyer needs to have a good reason to file a motion to dismiss. They must support the motion with a strong argument, whether they base the argument on a substantive issue, like a lack of evidence, or a procedural issue, like a violation of your due process.

Common reasons to file a motion to dismiss are:

Insufficient Evidence

Your lawyer might file a motion to dismiss because the prosecutor clearly lacks evidence to meet their burden of proof. You’ll argue it’s obvious the prosecution doesn’t have enough evidence to prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

Lack of Probable Cause

The police must have probable cause to arrest you. Either an officer has probable cause based on the circumstances, or they explain their cause to a judge who signs an arrest warrant. If you were arrested based on little-to-no facts that you were involved in a crime, your lawyer would argue the police lacked probable cause and violated your rights by arresting you.

An Illegal Search or Seizure

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures. If the police unlawfully stopped, detained, or searched you or your private property, this may be a basis for a judge to rule certain evidence is inadmissible or to throw out your case entirely.

The Statute of Limitations

You might argue that the prosecutor brought charges after the statute of limitations for the offense ran out.

Unconstitutional Delay of Trial

The Constitution grants you the right to a speedy trial. If the government caused unreasonable and excess delays in your case, you could argue it violated your Constitutional rights and ask for the judge to dismiss the case.

Double Jeopardy

You can’t be prosecuted for the same crime twice. If the attorney is trying to prosecute you for a crime that you already defeated, or for a similar crime arising from circumstances you also faced charges for, you can argue the prosecutor is violating the rule against double jeopardy.

Prosecutorial Misconduct

Prosecutors must abide by many ethical standards. If your lawyer discovers the prosecutor has behaved unethically to gain evidence against you or to sway the judge or jury in their favor, you can file a motion to dismiss.

Due Process Violation

Due process isn’t just one thing – it’s numerous rights and procedures that ensure the law is applied fairly to everyone accused of a crime. Your lawyer will scrutinize everything that’s happened in your case, from the initial investigation and arrest until now, to determine if the police or prosecutor violated due process.

Your Lawyer Will Need to Argue the Motion

The exact procedure for filing a motion to dismiss depends on state and court rules. A pretrial motion to dismiss is usually made in writing, and you’ll attend a hearing on the matter. The prosecutor receives a copy of your motion and gets time to respond. They’re entitled to know you’ll be asking for the case to be dismissed and to develop a counterargument.

Because the judge is going to listen to arguments from both sides, you should have an experienced lawyer. Technically, you can defend yourself. But without a thorough understanding of the law, you might not know when you have a strong basis for a motion to dismiss or how to communicate that argument effectively in court. A criminal defense attorney will know the proper procedure for filing a motion to dismiss and how to best argue for dismissal before the judge.

What Happens if You Win a Motion to Dismiss?

If the judge agrees, they’ll rule in your favor and dismiss the case—either with or without prejudice. The difference between “with prejudice” or “without prejudice” is whether the prosecutor can bring the same or similar charges against you in the future.

If the judge dismisses your case with prejudice, it means the judge ended the case permanently. The prosecutor can’t charge you for that crime arising from those underlying circumstances again. But if the judge dismisses your case without prejudice, it means the prosecutor can continue to investigate you, improve their case, and file charges again in the future. However, the statute of limitations still limits how much time the prosecutor has to file charges against you again.

Talk with Fienman Defense About Filing a Motion to Dismiss

It’s tough to know whether filing a pretrial motion to dismiss is the right call in your case without talking with a lawyer. Michael Fienman has years of experience handling criminal charges. He’ll thoroughly review your case and look for any valid reason to ask for a dismissal.

Call (215) 839-9529 today and schedule a free, confidential consultation.

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