Case Dismissal by Judge
Why can’t the judge dismiss my case?
There are very limited circumstances in which a case dismissal by a judge can be done before a trial begins. Usually, when someone asks about having the judge dismiss their case, they want the judge to do so because they feel like the other side is lying or things didn’t happen the way the police say they happened. This situation is never a reason for the judge to dismiss the case. It may be a reason for a jury to find you not guilty.
What are the roles of the judge and jury?
To better understand why this is the case, it is important to understand the different roles played by a judge and a jury within our justice system. Juries decide factual disputes. For example, if I say the car was green, and you say the car was red, the jury would decide what color the car is. The jury would listen to my testimony and any evidence I wanted to present and then listen to you and yours. The jury would decide whether our testimony and evidence were believable and then decide what color they believe the car was based on that evidence.
Judges do not typically resolve factual disputes. Judges decide legal disputes. For example, if the prosecutor and the defendant both agreed the car was green, there would be no need for a jury to help us answer that question. But, there may be a dispute about whether the law says it is illegal to possess a green car. That would be a question for a judge to decide and the way we would bring it to the judge’s attention is through a motion to dismiss. In Florida, we often refer to this type of a motion to dismiss as a “C-4” motion, which refers to the subsection of the statute that authorizes an attorney to file such a motion.
There are other kinds of motions to dismiss that come up less often. Motions to dismiss can be filed because it has taken too long for the prosecutor to bring the charges against the defendant (statute of limitations), or because, although charges have been brought, it has taken too long to give the defendant a trial (speedy trial). They could also be filed if the charges were filed in the wrong court (a felony filed in county court, for instance) or in the wrong jurisdiction (incident happens in Miami and the state files in Tallahassee).