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How Do I Get a Criminal Charge Dismissed in Massachusetts?

criminal case dismissed massachusetts

Getting your criminal charge dismissed is one of the best results you can get in Massachusetts.  However, it is often easier said than done and requires an experienced criminal defense attorney.

There are many grounds for a motion to dismiss in Massachusetts and types of dismissals.

What are the Types of Dismissals in Massachusetts?

There are two types of dismissals in Massachusetts – with prejudice and without prejudice.  With prejudice means that the charges cannot be reinstated, while without prejudice means the police department can issue a new complaint against you even after the dismissal.  Most of the time, a motion to dismiss in Massachusetts results in a dismissal without prejudice, but rarely, it can be with prejudice.

Will a Dismissed Case Appear on my Record?

Any case you were arraigned for will appear on your record or CORI, so unless the case was dismissed before arraignment, it will show up on your record.  You can later get the case sealed or expunged, though, which will make it much less likely to appear on your record.

What are the Grounds for a Motion to Dismiss in Massachusetts?

There are many different grounds your attorney can argue to dismiss your case, but not all cases can get dismissed, obviously.

Lack of Probable Cause: If there was not enough probable cause in the police report, your criminal defense attorney can ask the judge to dismiss the case.  Keep in mind that probable cause means any evidence whatsoever to support all the elements of the offense, even if the evidence is not believable or contradicted by other evidence.

Speedy Trial/Rule 36: Rule 36 requires that any criminal case be brought to trial within a year.  If the case is not brought to trial within 365 days, you can get your criminal charges dismissed in Massachusetts.  However, there are many exceptions to this rule, including if there are other reasons for continuances (such as COVID), if your attorney asked for or agreed to the continuance, if it was due to a motion you filed, or if the judge finds that justice is served by the continuance.

Commonwealth’s Misconduct: If the Commonwealth failed to turn over discovery or follow other court orders, the judge can order the case to be dismissed.  Generally, judges are reluctant to do this, unless there’s a clear court order requiring the Commonwealth to turn over the discovery by a certain date or something else.  The judge can also dismiss the charges if the Commonwealth does not conduct a probable cause hearing.

Commonwealth Answers Not Ready for Trial:  If you have a trial date and the Commonwealth says they are not ready, the judge can dismiss the case.  This is called a dismissal for want of prosecution.  Keep in mind, though, that the decision is still up to the judge, and the judge can refuse to dismiss the case even if the Commonwealth is not ready.

Insufficient Evidence: In rare cases, the court can dismiss the case if there is evidence that contradicts the charges or the Commonwealth’s evidence is doubtful.  However, the Commonwealth must agree to this procedure and must agree that there is no other evidence.

Incompetent to Stand Trial: If the judge finds that the defendant is not competent to stand trial, the charges can be dismissed after a certain amount of time passes.  The time limit is generally based on the charges, but the court can also dismiss it before that time in the interest of justice if the judge finds that the defendant will never regain competence.

Nolle Prosse: A “nolle prosequi” is when the Commonwealth themselves move to dismiss the case.  This can be either because of lack of evidence or because of an agreement with the defendant.  This is generally what happens after successful completion of pretrial probation.


If you believe you have grounds to get your criminal case dismissed in Massachusetts, you need a good criminal defense attorney.  Call me or text me today at 617-295-7500, and let’s get started on your defense.


Although I am an attorney, I am not your attorney.  Please do not rely on anything on this page as legal advice because any specific advice would depend on your situation.  Any results posted on this page are not guarantees of outcomes in your case.

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The court system is stressful, whether you’re being charged with a crime, being sued, suing someone, or fighting for your ability to stay and work in this country. You need someone who appreciates this and can dedicate the time not only to represent you effectively in court but to guide you through the process.

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