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How to Make a Motion to Dismiss in Federal Court

What is a Motion to Dismiss?

A motion to dismiss is a request made to the court – asking the judge to throw out all or part of the charges against you. It‘s one of the first steps your federal criminal defense lawyer will likely take after being hired.Basically, you‘re saying “hey judge, there’s no case here – please dismiss the indictment.” If granted, the case ends right then and there. No trial, no nothing. You walk free.Of course, getting a dismissal isn’t easy. The prosecution will fight hard to keep the charges intact. But in some situations, a skilled attorney can make a strong argument for tossing out the case before it even starts.

Common Grounds for Dismissal

There are several possible grounds for a motion to dismiss in federal court. Some of the more common reasons include:

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  • Lack of Evidence – If the prosecution doesn’t have enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the case should be dismissed. This is a high legal standard they must meet.
  • Statute of Limitations – Most federal crimes have a time limit for bringing charges. If the deadline has passed, a dismissal may be warranted. (what is the statute of limitations for federal crimes?)
  • Selective Prosecution – It’s unlawful for the government to single someone out for vindictive reasons like race, religion or political beliefs. This violates equal protection.
  • Outrageous Government Conduct – If federal agents acted outrageously or violated your constitutional rights during an investigation, the court may dismiss the case as a deterrent.
  • Defective Indictment – The indictment document has specific requirements. If it’s missing key elements or contains errors, it could get tossed out.
  • Immunity – If you had a valid cooperation agreement or other grant of immunity, new charges may be dismissed.

There are other potential grounds too – like double jeopardy, improper venue, etc. An experienced federal lawyer will examine all possible avenues for a dismissal.

The Process of Filing a Motion

So how exactly does a motion to dismiss work? What are the steps involved?First, your attorney will thoroughly review all the evidence and circumstances of your case. They’ll look for any issues or legal deficiencies that could justify a dismissal.If grounds exist, they’ll draft a written motion and file it with the court. This is a formal legal document laying out the arguments for why the case should be thrown out.The prosecution will then have a chance to file a response, disagreeing with the defense’s position. After that, the court will schedule a hearing where both sides can make oral arguments.At the hearing, your lawyer will try to persuade the judge that a dismissal is warranted based on the facts and law. The prosecutor will counter, asserting the case should proceed.The judge will then rule on the motion – either granting it (dismissing some or all charges) or denying it (allowing the case to move forward).If the motion is denied, the case will continue towards trial unless a plea bargain is reached. But if it’s granted, you’re off the hook for those particular charges.

Potential Benefits of Filing

Even if a dismissal motion doesn‘t succeed, it‘s not a total loss. There are still some potential upsides:

  • Narrowing the Case – The judge may dismiss certain charges while allowing others to proceed. This narrows the scope of the case against you.
  • Excluding Evidence – If the motion challenges improper evidence gathering, the court could suppress that evidence – weakening the prosecution’s case.
  • Creating a Record – Arguments made in the motion are preserved for appeal if you’re ultimately convicted. This lays groundwork for challenging the verdict.
  • Negotiation Leverage – A strong dismissal motion can give you more leverage in plea negotiations by showing holes in the government’s case.

So while an outright dismissal is ideal, these other benefits make filing a motion worthwhile in many cases.

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Chances of Success

How likely is it for a motion to dismiss to actually get granted? Well, it’s an uphill battle for sure.Federal judges are generally reluctant to take such a drastic step – especially before all evidence has been presented at trial. They prefer to let juries decide cases unless there are glaring legal problems.That said, dismissals do happen occasionally when the circumstances warrant it. A study by TRAC Reports found that around 2% of federal cases get dismissed on procedural grounds each year.The odds improve if the prosecution’s case has obvious major flaws or constitutional violations occurred during the investigation. But in most routine cases, a dismissal is unlikely.Still, it‘s absolutely worth trying if a legitimate basis exists. You have nothing to lose by making the request to the court.

Potential Downsides

While a motion to dismiss can be a useful tool, it’s not without some potential downsides to consider:

  • Showing Your Hand – The motion has to lay out your entire legal argument. This gives the prosecution a preview of your planned defense strategy.
  • Wasting Time/Money – If the chances of success are very low, a dismissal motion just burns time and legal fees with little payoff.
  • Angering the Judge – Judges don’t appreciate frivolous or weak motions to dismiss that waste court resources. It could rub them the wrong way.
  • Delaying Inevitable – In some cases, a dismissal is simply impossible no matter what. The motion just postpones the inevitable trial or plea.

An experienced federal defense lawyer can advise if the potential benefits outweigh these downsides for your particular situation.

Dismissal vs. Other Options

It’s important to understand that a motion to dismiss is just one potential path – not the only way to resolve a federal criminal case.In many situations, other options like plea bargaining or going to trial make more sense as an end-game strategy. A dismissal motion is often just an initial step to try to terminate the case early.For example, if the evidence against you is overwhelming, a dismissal is highly unlikely no matter how skilled your lawyer is. In that scenario, negotiating a plea for reduced charges/sentencing is usually the wiser approach.Or if you have a very strong defense case, taking it to a jury trial gives you the best chance at full acquittal and avoiding a conviction entirely.The decision on what route to take requires careful analysis by an experienced federal criminal defense attorney. They’ll examine all the facts and make a recommendation on the best overall strategy.But in general, a motion to dismiss is one potential tool in the toolbox – not an automatic go-to for every case. It has its time and place, but also limitations.

Hire an Experienced Lawyer

As you can see, getting an indictment dismissed in federal court is an uphill battle that requires meticulous preparation and legal expertise.That’s why it’s absolutely critical to have a top-notch, experienced federal criminal defense attorney like the ones at Spodek Law Group handling your case from day one.Our team has extensive experience filing motions to dismiss and winning outright dismissals for clients in federal courts across the nation. We know the ins and outs of this process and what it takes to succeed.If you or a loved one are facing federal charges, don‘t take chances with a public defender or inexperienced lawyer. Your future is on the line.Call the Spodek Law Group right away at 212-210-1851 for a free, confidential consultation. Let our top federal criminal defense attorneys review your case and discuss all available legal options – including the possibility of a dismissal.The sooner you have us in your corner, the better we can protect your rights and fight for the best possible outcome. Don‘t wait – your freedom may depend on it.

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