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A not guilty plea would obviously be delivered before either a bench or a jury trial. A case dismissal can happen either before trial or after what’s called a Rule 20 motion, which happens right after the State has presented its case. That’s a directed verdict from the court where basically the judge is saying, “Look, the prosecutor put on their case and there wasn’t enough evidence to convict you here.” Then the defense doesn’t have to present a case.
For me, I’d rather have a case dismissed prior to trial, because it’s preferable to not have to go to trial. Statistically speaking, defendants don’t fare well at trial; the state wins most of them. Therefore, getting a dismissal before trial is usually better.
Sometimes, a dismissal isn’t a good thing, however. Sometimes, prosecutors use case dismissals to buy themselves more time; they’ll simply dismiss the case and re-file. That confuses many defendants, who often think the dismissal means their case is done, which it isn’t.
A dismissal should happen for a valid reason. For example, I just had a case dismissed yesterday. I walked into a pretrial conference, obtained the police report and noticed that the stop was unconstitutional and spoke to the prosecutor, who is going to dismiss the case. That’s a legitimate dismissal because it’s based on the facts and legal issues in this case.
On the other hand, a couple of months ago a client’s blood wasn’t in, and the case was dismissed. The client was really excited, but I had to explain to her that it was going to be re-filed.