Can You Have A Criminal Case Thrown Out Of Court?

For a criminal attorney, one of the best potential outcomes for a case is to see the judge dismiss it. This is what folks outside of criminal law practice often call getting the court to "throw out" the case. It's far from a magic wand that a lawyer can just wave over any charge, but it's a tactic they'll frequently try. Look at how a dismissal work and the most common reasons judges throw out charges.


In criminal law, it's the defense's right to ask the court to dismiss a case or a specific aspect of one. Generally, the argument for dismissal is that something about the prosecution's case is fundamentally flawed. Perhaps the police did something illegal to obtain a key piece of evidence, for example. The ideal scenario is when the judge tosses the whole case. However, even if the judge doesn't feel the case is totally flawed, they might agree that a key component is.

For example, a piece of evidence might not be fully traceable. In that instance, the state did nothing wrong, but it also can't justify showing an untraceable piece of evidence to a jury. Consequently, the judge might accept a motion to exclude the alleged evidence. If a criminal law attorney can chip away at the pieces of evidence, they might undermine the whole case.

Reasons for Dismissals

As previously noted, flawed evidence is a common justification for a court to dismiss charges. Similarly, questionable investigative tactics may justify dismissals. For example, a police officer may have violated a defendant's civil rights during an interrogation. The judge might decide the appropriate punishment for such a violation is to drop the charges.

Some dismissals hinge on questions of law. If someone is claiming self-defense, for example, there might be a debate during the initial hearings about applicability in an assault case. The prosecution has filed charges so they think a criminal assault has occurred. However, the defense might assert that a state's laws permit the defendant's actions. If the judge agrees, the defense may move to dismiss because the prosecution's case is unsustainable.


Generally, prosecutors think hard about the reasons a judge might dismiss a case before they even file charges. This means you won't see a dismissal in most cases. Defense lawyers, however, will make motions to dismiss because it forces the prosecution to do its job. Even if a motion fails, it may get the judge thinking about what's wrong with the case. That sometimes improves the defense's odds, especially if the prosecution case starts to look messy upon closer examination.

Reach out to a criminal law attorney to learn more.