Today I had the good fortune to hear the Judge tell my client the good news- that her case was dismissed! My client was facing felony charges for auto-theft and receiving stolen property. The dismissal was due to a motion by the District Attorney (“D.A.”), which means the D.A. was admitting to the Court that it made a mistake and should not have filed the charges in the first place.
However, the joyous news of dismissal was tempered by the Judge when he said, “the proceedings against you are over FOR NOW.”
Why did the Judge say, for now? Doesn’t a dismissal mean the case is over forever?
It depends. If the charge that is dismissed is a misdemeanor, then yes – the D.A. cannot refile the case again. But, if the charge dismissed is a felony, the D.A. can refile as long as there have not been two dismissals and certain exceptions do not apply.
What if the charge(s) dismissed are a wobbler – a crime that can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor? This is percisely the case here. My client was charged with two felonies that we successfully reduced to two misdemeanors. Unfortunately, in this situation, even though misdemeanors are dismissed, the felony rule still applies.
Does the D.A. have to refile within a certain time frame?
Yes, even though the D.A. has the right to refile the case, their right may have expired based on the statute of limitations or time limit they have to file the case. The time for the statue of limitations generally starts ticking from the date of the offense and varies based on the type of offense charged. Here, both auto-theft and receiving stolen property have a three year statute of limitations in California.
What is the likelihood that the D.A. will refile the case?
Once you hear the word dismissed you should feel relieved and as though the case is over FOREVER. Unless your case involves a serious or violent felony or a lot of press coverage, it is unlikely the D.A. will choose to refile your case. This is because the D.A.’s office is simply swamped with new cases to file. In my client’s case, it is unlikely the D.A. will refile because they would have to refile the charges as a felonies and the court already reduced the charges to misdemeanors.
Is a not guilty verdict better than a dismissal?
Absolutely. A not guilty verdict means that a jury was empaneled or a judge began to hear evidence and the same case cannot be refiled. If the same charges were refiled, the D.A.’s office would likely be violating your 5th Amendment right against double jeopardy.