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Dismissed Meaning: Origins, Uses, and Examples In Law

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When you’re in the mists of a possible trial, you may not understand some of the legal jargon that fills the conversation.

One of the most important terms for anyone going through the legal process is “dismissal.”

It means “the act of removing a case from the court,” even if for a small period.

Here’s a complete guide to what, how, and why dismissal happens in courts.


What is the Meaning of Dismiss in English

By general definitions, “dismiss” means “to order or allow to leave.”

The legal definition means “terminating a case that leaves the defendant with no liability.”

Often, dismissed cases happen in several ways.

The most common occurrences are plaintiffs pulling their case or motions to dismiss.

For example, a judge could say: “This case is dismissed due to lack of evidence.”

When dismissed, the defendant would not face any legal sentencing.

It’s like the case never existed.

The term “dismiss” originates from the early 15th century “dismissen.”

It meant what it means today: “releasing from court charges.”

By the late 15th century, “dismissen” also meant “removal from office”.

Over the years, “dismissen” turned into “dismiss” after translations from language to language.  

Dismissal Statistics In 2022

In 2022, dismissed cases were frequent due to COVID-19.

Most federal cases were dismissed (up to 97%) and settled outside of court.

However, not all court cases will have such high rates of dismissal.

Very few criminal cases go through dismissal.

In the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), only 4 out of 66 cases had their status changed to dismissed in 2022.

This creates a 6% dismissal rate for the SCOTUS.

By state, the U.S. does not allow many dismissed criminal cases.

For example, between 2009 to 2013:

  • Oregon dismissed 32% of cases
  • Florida dismissed 20% of cases
  • Pennsylvania dismissed 14% of cases

These statistics are different than federal cases.

These types of cases have a nearly 100% dismissal rate.

This happens because the cases settle outside of court.

Yet, this isn’t always the case.

Due to COVID-19, many criminal charges were being dismissed due to the inability to host juries.

This leads 2022 statistics to face skewed results and makes it hard to completely track.

Given previous years, 2022 court cases faced higher rates of dismissal.

Certain states faced fewer criminal cases due to this pandemic.

They will most likely notice a difference in the upcoming months or years.

What Are The Different Kinds of Dismissed Cases?

Dismissed criminal cases often fall under four main categories.

Each of these categories has different definitions and questions about them.

Think of these kinds as opposite ends of the same scale.

Your case can be dismissed with or without prejudice and voluntarily or involuntarily dismissed.

Depending on your case and how it proceeds, each has different effects on the future of the case.

Dismissed With Prejudice

A case dismissed with prejudice means that the plaintiff will not be able to refile the same claim again.

In cases dismissed with prejudice, judges decide based on what is available at the start of the trial.

Plaintiffs cannot make the same claims in court once it is categorized as dismissed with prejudice.

Essentially, the case is completely closed without damage to the defendant.

They also do not have to worry about facing these particular claims again.

Does The Statute Of Limitations Get Delayed?

Yes. Since the case cannot go to court again, the statute of limitations becomes delayed.

A statute of limitations exists for a period where cases can appear in court based on injury.

However, when a case faces dismissal with prejudice, it is like the trial already took place.

Dismissed Without Prejudice

Cases dismissed without prejudice are the opposite of cases dismissed with prejudice.

They are removed from the court but can be re-tried by another court or, occasionally, by the original court.

The dismissal of a case without prejudice can happen for various reasons.

Judges can dismiss without prejudice if the information is incorrect or not in their jurisdiction.

To summarize, cases dismissed without prejudice can appear in court again.

Can A Case Be Dismissed Without Prejudice By The Court?

Yes, a case can be dismissed without prejudice by the court.

This happens when the judge realizes the case cannot proceed in their courtroom.

For example, small claims courts cannot do cases over a specified limit.

If a plaintiff were to bring in a case that is out of this threshold, the judge can dismiss it without prejudice.

This would allow the case to appear again if the plaintiff applies for it.

Does The Statute Of Limitations Get Delayed?

No, the statute of limitations says in-tact to the current time.

A plaintiff must apply to the correct court before the statute of limitations runs out.

The time permitted with the statute of limitations changes based on location.

Plaintiffs must submit their case by the end of this period.

If they fail to do so, the case cannot proceed.

Voluntary Dismissal

A voluntary dismissal of a case is when the plaintiff requests that the case is dismissed.

Many times, this happens if the defendant and plaintiff settled outside of the court.

It could also occur if the plaintiff no longer requires a case.

Voluntary dismissal can only come from the plaintiff or court orders.

Court-ordered voluntary dismissal must meet requirements created by the court and “deemed proper.”

Can A Case Be Dismissed Voluntarily?

Yes, cases can be dismissed voluntarily by the plaintiff or the court.

The case must meet the court’s requirements and motion by the plaintiff.

A defendant cannot voluntarily dismiss the case against them.

If they wish to dismiss their case, they must go through proving an argument for the dismissal.

Does The Statute Of Limitations Get Delayed?


Since the case closes, the statute of limitations has effectively “run out.”

When dismissed by the plaintiff, they claim they no longer want to prosecute the case.

This makes any limits non-existent.

Involuntary Dismissal

Involuntary dismissal is when the case is dismissed despite the plaintiff’s approval.

Involuntary dismissal happens for a variety of reasons.

Common ways this happens are:

the plaintiff didn’t show up for their court date

the plaintiff didn’t adhere to the rules of the court order.

Adhering to the court order often deals with the process of summoning the defendant.

If the plaintiff incorrectly gives notice of the case to the defendant, it could be involuntarily dismissed.  

Does the statute of limitations get delayed?


With involuntary dismissal, the case is dismissed based on a adjudication decision.

The plaintiff cannot go to court with this claim again.

If the plaintiff makes changes to their case and evidence, they may be able to return to court.

Should You File A Motion To Dismiss?

Depending on your position in the court case, you will have different options for a motion to dismiss.

For Defendants

To file for a motion to dismiss, you must have a good reason to have the case dismissed.

Your lawyer must have a strong argument for your case to be dismissed or else it will face denial.

Not every motion to dismiss will pass.

You should talk to your lawyer when looking to dismiss.

They can give the best guidance on proceeding.

Grounds For Filing A Motion To Dismiss

Reasons for an approved motion to dismiss would be:

  • For a lack of evidence
  • Unreasonable search
  • Violations in the process of getting you to court

Depending on the evidence brought forward, there are ways that your lawyer can advise for dismissal.

However, this can only happen if the evidence is (or in this case, isn’t) there.

Here are some reasons to file for a motion to dismiss:

  1. Lack of Personal Jurisdiction — This occurs when the defendant is not from the state of the court.
  2. Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction — The option when the court does not process certain cases.
  3. Insufficient Service of Process — When there is a denial of a fair trial based on outside factors.

How To File A Motion To Dismiss

To file a motion to dismiss your case, you must state that you are filing before the trial begins.

This can be either verbally or in writing.

The plaintiff must have the documentation and time to counter-argue for their cause.

The plaintiff may not respond to or try to fight the motion.

Then, many judges will follow your call to dismiss the case.

For Plaintiffs

Plaintiffs should look to dismiss a case if it’s settled outside of court or no longer is required.

To do so, you must speak with your lawyer.

They will know the best methods for announcing your case’s status change.

In Conclusion

There are many types of dismissals for court cases.

When looking into case dismissal, it’s important to talk to your lawyer and do your research.

Finding the most impactful route of action for a motion to dismiss is critical to ensuring its the best process for your case.

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