Decoding Criminal Case Dispositions

A “disposition” is the final outcome of a case, regardless of what it is called. Here is a list of typical criminal case dispositions.

Guilty or Conviction: This is the worst possible disposition if you are the defendant. It means that the case was heard and decided against you. With a conviction, the court will impose a sentence that may include jail time, probation, and paying a fine and court fees.

Not Guilty: The case actually proceeds to a trial, where a jury (or a judge in certain types of cases) decides that the evidence against the defendant was insufficient for a conviction. It does not mean the defendant was innocent – just that the case was heard and decided in the defendant’s favor.

Dismissal: A dismissal is entered when the court determines that the case should not move forward for some reason. There are many reasons for dismissals. For instance, there can be procedural errors, a lack of proper jurisdiction over the type of case, or the prosecutor decides to dismiss the charges (see below).

Nolle Prosequi or Nolle Prosse: A Latin phrase meaning “no more prosecution.” This is another way of saying that a case is dismissed by the prosecutor. This approach is often used when a defendant may agree to plead guilty to a lesser offense that guarantees the prosecution a conviction for a related offense, in exchange for the prosecutor “dismissing” the more serious charge.

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