A common misconception I hear from potential clients is that a judge will look at their case at the arraignment and just “throw it out” based on their specific situation. This is simply not the case. In fact, the only way a judge can throw out a case (specifically a criminal case, not a civil traffic infraction) is under a few limited circumstances.
First, we must understand what happens at an arraignment. The arraignment date is set after an arrest, and it is for the State to announce which charges they are filing. Under the Florida rules of criminal procedure 3.160, “The arraignment shall be conducted in open court or by an audiovisual device in the discretion of the court and shall consist of the judge or clerk or prosecuting attorney reading the indictment or information on which the defendant will be tried to the defendant or stating orally to the defendant the substance of the charge or charges and calling on the defendant to plead thereto.”
Simply put, at arraignment, the State will read the charges and the defendant will plead guilty or not guilty. The judge certainly won’t look at the evidence to determine if the state has enough to move forward. This was done at first appearance.
Won’t the Judge Look at the Facts of my Case?
In reality, unless there is an evidentiary issue, the judge really won’t look at the facts of your case until the time of trial. You must think of a judge as an umpire in baseball. He or She is only looking to call “balls” and “strikes.” In other words, until the judge is asked to make a ruling on the discovery, or evidentiary issue, he or she won’t have any involvement in your case other than to move it along.
Why do people have their cases dismissed or thrown out?
If you’re still reading this, you may be confused. Many people have their cases dismissed during the pretrial phase. That dismissal may not necessarily be from a judge, rather it’s a Nolle Prosse (State’s Dismissal).
There are certain instances when a judge can throw out a case.
Under Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3,190(c) there are four different reasons the judge can throw out a case pretrial.
- The defendant is charged with an offense for which the defendant has been pardoned.
- The defendant is charged with an offense for which the defendant previously has been placed in jeopardy.
- The defendant is charged with an offense for which the defendant previously has been granted immunity.
- There are no material disputed facts and the undisputed facts do not establish a prima facie case of guilt against the defendant. The facts on which the motion is based should be alleged specifically and the motion sworn to.
Specifically, the most common reason for a judge to throw out a case is under subsection 4. A person who is unrepresented by counsel rarely has the insight to file a motion properly under this rule. So, when someone is suggesting they go to court without a lawyer to see if the judge will throw the case out they are operating under false pretenses.
As Abraham Lincoln said it best, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.”