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What's the differnce between criminal case being a) discharged, b) dismissed and c) out of court settlement?

California |

I understand that for the case to be dismissed it first needs to be filed by the DA but what does 'case dismissal' really mean?

and for the defendant if the case has been discharged or dismissed or may be there's some out of court settlement, does it mean that he/she is free with no convictions in that case?

and of the options like 'case dismissial' and 'out of court settlement' which one is usually the preferred route?

If the case gets dismissed will I get some kind of document or copy from the court stating that my case has been dissmissed?
what happens in case of out of court settlemet are they any documents etc that defendant will get to say that the case has been withdrawn etc?

Attorney Answers 2


Once you are arrested, you will have a record for the arrest. If the DA charges the case they will have to dismiss it unless you enter a plea of guilty or no contest or go to trial. If you get a out of court settlement with a victim, the DA can dismiss the case or a judge can find a civil compromise. Either way results in no conviction. The court clerk should be able to give you copies of the court's docket and minutes dismissing or compromising the case. However, in this day and age with technology many potential employers can still find record of the case and its disposition. The only way to avoid any record is a finding of factual innocence.

I would think a dismiss is a better outcome. with a out of court settlement, it looks like you paid off the victim.

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Ms. Burgess is correct in her response. This provides some additional information. In SF where I practice when there has been an arrest but the DA decides not to file charges the case is discharged. In terms of getting a statement of factual innocence a discharge is probably better than a dismissal.

With a dismissal the DA has filed the charge but for one reason or another has decided not to proceed. With both a discharge and a dismissal there will still be a record of your arrest.

In criminal law there is really no out of court settlement unless it is a civil compromise which must be approved by the DA and applies only to misdemeanors. Even in that case you would still have an arrest record.

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