A dismissed case signifies the closure of a lawsuit without a guilty finding or conviction for the defendant in a criminal case. However, it’s important to understand that a dismissed case does not prove the defendant’s factual innocence for the alleged crime. Despite the lack of conviction, a dismissed case remains on the defendant’s criminal record.
Various Types of Dismissed Cases
Dismissal can occur in different ways, and the type of dismissal can significantly impact the outcome of the lawsuit or the defendant’s ability to seal the case from their criminal record.
Dismissed with Prejudice
When a case is dismissed “with prejudice,” it means that no further legal action can be taken on the same claim after the case’s closure. By dismissing a case with prejudice, the judge indicates that the matter is settled and cannot progress. Although the defendant can appeal the ruling in a higher court, the option to file a new claim is eliminated.
Dismissed without Prejudice
A case dismissed “without prejudice” allows for the possibility of filing other suits on the same claim within the statute of limitations. There are a few reasons why a case may be dismissed without prejudice.
For one, a case may end in dismissal without prejudice if it is only partially settled and the plaintiff decides to drop the charges for a complete resolution. However, this verdict is contingent upon the defendant complying with the agreement’s terms. If the defendant fails to meet the terms, the plaintiff can file a new claim.
Another situation where a case may be dismissed without prejudice is when the plaintiff agrees to accept payments from the defendant instead of pursuing a court hearing.
Dismissed for Want of Prosecution
When a case is dismissed for “want of prosecution,” it means that the case has been inactive on the court docket for an extended period and neither the plaintiff nor the defendant took steps to move the case forward. As a result, the case is dismissed due to lack of action.
For example, if a case remains inactive on the docket for a significant amount of time and neither party seeks affirmative relief or appears in court for a trial or hearing, the court may place the case on a list for dismissal. After dismissal, either party might have the option to file a motion to reinstate the case, depending on the state’s rules.
Typically, the party seeking reinstatement must prove that their failure to appear in court was unintentional or the result of an accident that justifies or excuses their absence.
A “voluntary” dismissal occurs when the plaintiff voluntarily terminates a claim. The plaintiff can dismiss the action without a court order by filing a notice of dismissal before the defendant files a motion for summary judgment. Alternatively, they can file a stipulation of dismissal signed by both the plaintiff and the defendant.
Sealing a Dismissed Case
In some states, to seal a dismissed case or an arrest that did not result in a conviction and where charges were not filed, the defendant must demonstrate factual innocence of the crime in accordance with the relevant state laws.
To establish factual innocence, the defendant must provide evidence that there was no substantial basis for anyone to believe they committed the crime. It’s important to note that simply lack of evidence may not be enough to prove factual innocence.
Sealing an arrest record or information related to a court case can have significant advantages for the individual’s future. Many employers, landlords, universities, and banks conduct criminal background checks.
Whether someone is pursuing education, seeking employment, or looking for housing, they will likely need to clear their criminal record. By sealing a dismissed case, the information is removed from public view, preventing employers, landlords, and admissions officers from accessing the record. Sealing a court case from a criminal record offers individuals the opportunity to improve their circumstances and move forward without the fear of their criminal record hindering their progress.
If you’re wondering if your case is eligible for sealing, you can quickly and easily determine your eligibility by taking our free online assessment or calling (877) 573-7273 for a free evaluation.
For more information about record clearing and expungement, visit our legal articles section.