What is a Penal Code 995 Motion to Dismiss in California?
Basically, for a felony case the defendant is entitled to have what’s called a preliminary hearing. During the preliminary hearing the prosecutor has to put on the evidence that shows that the individual that’s being charged is guilty of whatever crimes the prosecutors have alleged against them.
Asking Trial Judge to Dismiss Case
After the preliminary hearing the prosecutor will ask the judge to hold the person to answer for the charges. Meaning, find that the prosecutor has presented a prima facia case — in other words, the bare elements of the offense to move the case into the trial court.
If the judge finds that the person is worthy of being bound over to the trial court, then the person will be arraigned in a trial court and the case will proceed to trial or a resolution depending on how things go.
After the case gets over in the bound trial court, the defense can file the Penal Code Section 995 Motion and make the argument to the new judge — the trial judge — that the person did not commit the offenses and the prosecutor did not present enough evidence to hold the person to answer. If the defense is successful, they can get the charges or entire case dismissed and the defendant is done with the case.
If the defense is unsuccessful, then the case will move forward and either be resolved by way of some sort of a plea bargain or a jury trial — whatever the defendant feels is in their best interest.
It’s not easy to win a 995 Motion because the standard for the prosecutors to prove that there’s enough evidence to have a trial on the case is a very low standard. They basically have to prove the elements of the charge or charges and show there’s a reasonable suspicion that the person committed the crime.
That’s the key language, and again, that’s not beyond a reasonable doubt. I don’t even think that the preponderance of the evidence which would be 51%. So, it’s a very low standard or very low burden for the prosecutors to meet.
Prosecutor Failing to Include Evidence
Usually where I see 995 Motions getting granted is when the prosecutors fail to include evidence of one or more of the elements of whatever crime the person is being charged with and then the judge has no choice but to dismiss the case.
But realize, judges are typically former prosecutors in Los Angeles county. Most of them are very conservative, so they’re not looking to dismiss a case unless the case has areal inherent problem and the prosecutors were simply unable to put on enough evidence or just didn’t do a good job putting on the evidence and then the defense can take advantage of that and get the Motion granted.
Written 995 Motion Filed in Court
Basically what happens is, a written Motion is filed with the court. You have to give the prosecutor ten days’ notice and the prosecutor could file an opposition if they chose.
They don’t have to and then there’s a hearing held before the judge. The judge will hear oral arguments of both sides and then the judge will rule on the Motion and decide basically whether or not the case is dismissed or one of the counts is dismissed.
Most of the time, the defense of course is going to try to get the whole case dismissed in a 995 Motion, but sometimes it’s pretty clear that some of the counts are not going to be dismissed, so maybe some of the other counts should be dismissed.
So, you file the Motion and ask the judge to grant it as to certain counts. Make your argument and then the judge makes the final decision on your Motion.
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