Getting arrested is a frightening experience. The process of going into state custody involves a very invasive search, embarrassing photographs and the collection of biometric information, such as someone’s fingerprints. After someone’s arrest, a prosecutor can then present evidence to a judge to bring charges against an individual.

At an arraignment hearing, a judge will announce the charges that the state will pursue and potentially set terms for someone’s release from custody. While waiting for a criminal trial, there are many things that could happen. For example, a Washington prosecutor might decide to dismiss the charges that have been filed against a defendant.

Not all dismissals have the same outcome

It is natural and expected for people to celebrate after the dismissal of their criminal charges. After all, a dismissal means they no longer have to attend a trial in the immediate future. Many people view a dismissal as one of the best possible outcomes for pending criminal charges. However, the dismissal of someone’s criminal charges does not automatically mean they are safe from prosecution. When the prosecutor announces their intent to dismiss the charges, they will make the clear distinction about whether they intend to dismiss the charges with prejudice or without prejudice.

When a prosecutor dismisses charges with prejudice, they have effectively released the defendant from the possibility of future prosecution. However, a dismissal without prejudice means that the prosecutor retains the right to pursue the same charges against someone in the future or similar charges for the same incident. Simply put, a dismissal does not automatically mean that someone is free from risk yet. The state could sometimes still take action against them in the future after previously dismissing a case. Thankfully, a dismissal usually means that the state does not yet have a strong enough case to move forward.

Sometimes, a lawyer’s attempt to suppress certain evidence or question whether the circumstances justify specific charges will directly lead to the dismissal of someone’s pending criminal case. Understanding what happens when a prosecutor dismisses charges may benefit those trying to develop a strategy in response to a recent arrest.