Many criminal defendants are so excited to see the word “dismissed” that they don’t pay much attention to the next two words. In short: “without prejudice” means your charge or charges could come back. You may not be entirely out of the woods yet.
There are many reasons why your case may have been dismissed without prejudice. Depending on what type of charge you have (felony or misdemeanor), there is a limited amount of time that the State has to charge you (the “statute of limitations”). Once a case is filed, you can assert your speedy trial rights to force the case to trial. Often, the prosecution dismisses a case without prejudice to stop their clock from ticking. Sometimes, they simply don’t have enough evidence to proceed at that time. In domestic violence cases, perhaps the victim did not appear at a scheduled court date to testify. In DUI cases, maybe the blood test results have not come in yet. If new evidence surfaces, the victim reappears to assist in the case, or unfavorable blood results come in, you may find yourself facing charges again.
For misdemeanor charges, if the State chooses to re-file the charges, they still must be filed within one year of the date of the incident that led to your arrest, OR, they must re-file the charges within six months of the dismissal without prejudice, whichever is later.
So when are you free and clear? Once enough time has elapsed without the State re-filing charges, according to the law. A good lawyer can do the math for you. If the case you thought was gone is now back, contact the Law Office of Brian Chase for a free consultation.