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What Does ‘Dismissed Without Prejudice’ Mean?

There are two different ways in which a case may be dismissed, “with prejudice” or “without prejudice.” Dismissed without prejudice means that a case is dismissed for now, but the prosecutor or petitioner may still re-file the case at a later date, whereas a case dismissed with prejudice has been concluded and cannot be reopened or re-filed.
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Why Do They Call It With and Without Prejudice?

"With prejudice" and "without prejudice" are formal legal terms for the different ways court cases get dismissed. Dismissing a case "because of prejudice" sounds like it got dismissed because of a judge's racism or other type of bias. This is not true.

In the legal world, a case is dismissed with prejudice when it is closed permanently. A case dismissed with prejudice is over and done with, and can't be brought back to court.

A case dismissed without prejudice means the opposite. It's not dismissed forever, and the person whose case it is can try again at some point in the future.

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Why Would a Case Be Dismissed Without Prejudice?

Judges often dismiss cases without prejudice to give the prosecution time to work on the case. This allows them to have another chance at securing a conviction at a later date. Other reasons a judge may dismiss a case without prejudice include:

  • They don’t have subject matter jurisdiction
  • They don’t have personal jurisdiction
  • They are not the right venue to handle the case

What Is One Reason Prosecutors May Decide to Dismiss a Case?

The evidence must show that the defendant is guilty of the offense for which they are being prosecuted. For this reason, charges may be voluntarily dropped before trial if the prosecution determines there is inadequate evidence or proof of guilt to proceed with a case against the defendant.

How Long Can a Case Be Dismissed Without Prejudice?

If your case is dismissed without prejudice, the prosecutor has to re-file the charges within the statute of limitations (typically 1-3 years, depending on the state). If they fail to do so, they will be barred from filing charges, and the defendant will no longer have the threat of criminal charges hanging over their head.

What’s the Difference Between a Protected Conversation and Without Prejudice?

In legal terms, the without prejudice rule only applies if there’s a dispute. This can be unhelpful. Sometimes an employer and employee may want to discuss bringing the employment to an end, even if there’s no dispute.

That’s why the law changed to allow employers and employees to have an “off the record” conversation, even when there’s no dispute. This is known as a “protected conversation”. In most cases, a protected conversation has the same legal effect as a without prejudice discussion.

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