Types of Dismissed Cases
A dismissed case means that a lawsuit is closed with no finding of guilt and no conviction for the defendant in a criminal case by a court of law. Even though the defendant was not convicted, a dismissed case does not prove that the defendant is factually innocent for the crime for which he or she was arrested. A dismissed case will still remain on the defendant's criminal record.
There are many ways in which a case can be dismissed. The type of dismissal can greatly alter the outcome of the suit, or the defendant's ability to potentially seal the case from his or her criminal record.
When a case is dismissed "with prejudice," it means that no other suit can be filed on that same claim once the case is closed. By dismissing a case with prejudice, the judge has deemed that the case is settled and cannot move forward. After a case has been dismissed with prejudice, the defendant may be able to appeal the ruling in a higher court, but the option to file a new claim is eliminated.
When a case is dismissed "without prejudice," it means that, although the case has been closed, other suits can be filed on the same claim within the applicable statute of limitations. Cases may be dismissed without prejudice for a few different reasons.
One reason a case may result in a dismissal without prejudice is if the case is only partially settled and the plaintiff chooses to drop the charges for a complete settlement. This verdict, however, is contingent upon the defendant following the terms of the agreement.
Otherwise, the plaintiff may file a new claim against the defendant. Another reason that a case may result in being dismissed without prejudice is if the plaintiff agrees to allow the defendant to make payments in lieu of going to court.
When a case is dismissed for "want of prosecution," it means that the case has been inactive on the court docket for a great length of time and that neither the plaintiff nor the defendant were active in proceeding with the case, so the case is dismissed for want of prosecution.
For instance, if a case has remained inactive on the docket for a given amount of time, and any party fails to seek affirmative relief to appear in the trial or for the hearing, then the court may decide to place the case on a list of cases to be dismissed - which may result in dismissal for want of prosecution. Once the case is dismissed, depending on the state, either party may be able to file a motion to reinstate the case.
In most cases, the party petitioning for reinstatement must be able to prove that the failure to appear in court was either unintentional, or was the result of an accident that explains or excuses the absence.
When a case results in a "voluntary" dismissal, it means that a claim has been voluntarily terminated by the plaintiff. The plaintiff can dismiss an action without a court order by filing a notice of dismissal before the defendant serves a motion for summary of judgment, or by filing a stipulation of dismissal - which must be signed by the plaintiff and the defendant.
In some states, in order to seal a dismissed case or an arrest that did not lead to a conviction where charges were NOT filed, the defendant must show factual innocence of the crime - depending on the laws of the state in which the offense occurred. To be factually innocent, the defendant must be able to prove that there was no actual evidence to cause anyone to believe that the defendant committed the crime. It is important to keep in mind that lack of evidence may not be sufficient evidence in proving factual innocence.
Sealing an arrest record or information pertaining to a court case may greatly benefit the individual's future. Most employers, landlords, universities, and banks perform criminal background checks. Regardless of whether a person is attempting to finish their education, find reliable employment, or desirable housing, that person will most likely need to clear their criminal record.
By sealing a dismissed case, the information is removed from sight so that the public - particularly employers, landlords, and admissions officers - cannot view the record. Sealing a court case from a criminal record grants the individual the opportunity to further their circumstances and better their life without the fear that their criminal record will prevent them from moving forward.
For more information on record clearing and record expungement, visit our legal articles section.