What is a Motion for Dismissal?

Misty Amber Brighton

A motion for dismissal is a formal document filed with the court system. In this document, a defendant asks the judge to rule that the plaintiff does not have enough evidence to proceed with his case, thereby dismissing it. It could also be filed when there is no legal remedy for a particular situation. This motion may be filed in either a criminal or a civil case. An attorney typically submits this document, and the rules for doing so vary from one jurisdiction to the next.

A motion for dismissal may be stamped by a notary public.
A motion for dismissal may be stamped by a notary public.

The exact format of this legal document is different in each jurisdiction. It generally includes the case number and names of the parties involved at the top. The court system and date it is prepared are also listed. Underneath this information is usually a subheading titled "motion for dismissal".

A judge will either grant or deny a motion for dismissal.
A judge will either grant or deny a motion for dismissal.

In the body of a motion for dismissal, the defendant will state the reasons why he would like his case dismissed. This will depend upon the situation at hand as well as local policy. Whenever possible, the motion should reference any relevant laws or previous decisions that affect this case.

At the end of the motion for dismissal there is often a paragraph in which the defendant requests the court to take the action he has requested. This is sometimes known as a "prayer for relief". Immediately after the request, the document will be signed by the defendant and his attorney. The motion may also be stamped by a notary public.

Many jurisdictions require the motion to be mailed to opposing counsel at the same time it is filed with the court. In this instance, a certificate of service is listed below the signature lines. This is simply a paragraph certifying that a copy was sent by postal mail on a particular date.

A motion for dismissal must usually be filed within a specified time. This can depend on the particular court system as well as the type of case being tried. The motion is usually hand-delivered to a court clerk, but can be filed electronically in some jurisdictions.

After the motion for dismissal has been filed, a copy of this document is retained in a client's official record. This will be maintained by the defense attorney until a decision is given. The amount of time this process takes also depends upon the court system, facts of the case, and the caseload a particular judge has.

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