Legal Guide

What is a 995 motion to dismiss in California?

If you are charged with a felony, or with a felony and misdemeanour, in California, your defense attorney may make a 995 motion to dismiss, in certain circumstances. You should speak to a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, or criminal attorney, to discuss your case. We are going to take a look at the 995 motion in more detail.

This motion, the California Penal Code 995 motion to give it its full title, is used to ask a judge to dismiss one or all charges. The motion is made after the initial hearing, if the court decides to refer the case for trial.

Why is the 995 motion used?

The idea of having a pre-trial hearing in a case which involves a felony charge, is to decide whether the evidence is sufficient to refer the case for trial. If the judge decides that the evidence is sufficient, the case is referred for trial. It's at this point that a 995 motion can be filed, if the defense feels that the judges decision should be looked at again. The defense has to provide probable cause for the request. This has to be based on either:

  • The decision to refer the case for trial was not legal.
  • The case was referred for trial without probable cause.

What are these reasons for a 995 motion; let's look at them in more detail.

The committal to trial was made illegally

A defendant has certain rights which must be adhered to, during the pre-trial hearing. If any of these rights were not adhered to the committal to trial is not legal. Rights include, the opportunity to be represented by a lawyer and the chance to present witnesses and evidence.

There is no probable cause for committal

During the pre-trial hearing, the judge has to establish that there is probable cause to refer the case for trial. This does not mean that guilt has to be established at this point; that happens during the trial. It simply means that there has to be enough evidence to suggest that a reasonable person may be able to find the defendant guilty. If there is not sufficient evidence in place, the judge should not refer the case for trial.

You can see that a pre-trial hearing is intended to be the time and place where cases are only referred for trial if sufficient evidence is in place. If mistakes are made during this part of the process, a defendant could be unfairly committed for trial. This is why the 995 motion exists. It provides the opportunity for the defense to ask for the findings of the initial judge to be reconsidered.

The hearing for a 995 motion normally only lasts for around an hour and the judge normally provides a decision there and then; although they may sometimes take extra time. If the motion is granted then the related charge is dismissed. The prosecution can then appeal the decision or re-file the charge. It's important to note that most charges have a two dismissal rule attached. Once a charge has been dismissed twice it cannot be re-filed.

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