What Happens to a Felony Charge on a Dismissed Case?

By Laura Terwilliger
A dismissal can prevent a defendant from going to prison.

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Felony charges are serious, and defendants may face devastating consequences for a conviction. This makes dismissal a very attractive possibility for anyone accused of a felony. A dismissal can keep a defendant out of jail and prevent any further prosecution of the case.


In a criminal case, a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. This means that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. If the prosecution does not meet this standard, the defendant may make a motion for a dismissal of the charges.


When a defendant moves for dismissal, he is arguing that the prosecution has not shown any of the proof necessary to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that no reasonable jury would find him guilty. This motion will be decided on by the judge. If the judge agrees, the case will be dismissed, meaning that it will not proceed any further. The felony charges no longer threaten the defendant.


In the United States, a person cannot be tried twice for the same crime. This is known as the protection against double jeopardy. If a case is dismissed, the prosecution cannot try it again even if it finds better proof or makes stronger arguments. The dismissal is just as binding as a jury verdict for acquittal would be. A dismissal protects the defendant against any further prosecution on those felony charges. However, prosecutors may still file different charges arising out of the same incident.

Long-Term Consequences

After a dismissal, a defendant in a felony case may still suffer long-term consequences. While she has not been found guilty of the felony, the fact that she was ever charged may still show up on background checks in the future. Also, a defendant may still owe lawyers' fees or court costs. In some cases of egregious misconduct, defendants may sue the prosecutor's office for costs and to clear their names.

About the Author

Laura Terwilliger has been a professional writer since 2009. Terwilliger holds a B.A. in history and anthropology from the University of Colorado at Boulder and is a student at Seton Hall University School of Law.