Modified: November 16, 2022

Penal Code 991 – Motion to Dismiss a Misdemeanor in California

Did you know that a person is entitled to certain legal rights if charged with a misdemeanor (typically no sworn warrant affidavit) in Los Angeles County or another part of California? Rules for a felony case might differ, but let’s get a general look at disposing of a criminal complaint over a misdemeanor as soon as a preliminary hearing.

Besides helping defendants be sure that the legal proceedings related to their case are fair, these rights can also represent an opportunity to defend themselves and get the charges dismissed before a criminal trial.

These include the Penal Code 991 motion, which allows criminal defendants or their defense attorneys to ask the judge to dismiss the criminal case if there is insufficient probable cause to support the misdemeanor charges, as opposed to felony offenses for felony prosecutions.

Could a person accused of a crime be released from custody if a judge with reasonable doubt grants the motion and dismisses the charges? How does the Penal Code 991 motion work? Read on to find the answers over your misdemeanor complaint!

Understanding Penal Code 991 motion

As mentioned, a Penal Code 991 motion asks the judge to determine if there is sufficient probable cause to support the charges against the defendants and to believe that they have committed the crime.

The PC 911 motion to dismiss a misdemeanor forces a judge to review the main evidence in the criminal case to decide if it is worth proceeding.

If the judge grants the motion and the charge is dismissed, the defendant could be released from custody. However, when it is denied, the case over the crime alleged can proceed as normally expected.

Overall, Penal Code 991 motions are used to filter misdemeanor cases early or prevent defendants from spending a lot of time in jail if there is no probable cause at the probable cause hearing for your misdemeanor case. This court hearing will obviate the jury trial for the public offense altogether.

Evidence the Judge Must Review

A Penal Code 991 motion must be filed at the arraignment hearing. When granted, the cases are in their early stages.

Therefore, the evidence is usually preliminary and could include the following:

  • Arrest warrants
  • Police reports
  • Sworn complaint with all the documents and reports incorporated
  • Supporting affidavit
  • Search warrants issued
  • Any reliable documents related to the case.

At this point, the judge must determine probable cause immediately unless the court grants continuance – which must only be approved for a good cause. The 991 motion to dismiss misdemeanor remains common at the early stage in many Los Angeles, CA hearings.

Also, continuance of the first court appearance can delay the probable cause determination but only three court days, as set forth in California Penal Code Section 1050. So it’s up to the DA to establish probable cause and provide other relevant documents to support probable cause for the misdemeanor charge or charges.

What Happens After the Court’s Ruling on the Motion?

If the judge determines there’s probable cause after reviewing the evidence, the motion may be denied, or parts of the evidence could even be suppressed. As a result, the case must continue with regular pre-trial proceedings after hearing on the Section 991 Motion.

However, if it is determined that there is no probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the crime, the judge may grant the motion. This is your best chance to secure a dismissal before moving forward with other efforts to dismiss the complaint/avoid conviction.

When a judge grants the motion, the court dismisses the accusations. The prosecutor can refile the charges within 15 days after the ruling but must include new evidence supporting probable cause.

The defense also has the right to file another Penal Code 911 after the cases are filed again. However, the prosecutor would not be able to refile charges if a judge granted the motion a second time.

What Is Probable Cause and Why Is It Important?

The term “probable cause” defines the legal basis that determines the probability that a suspect has committed a crime. In other words, probable cause is the rational belief that a person has committed or is going to commit a crime.

However, probable cause cannot be an assumption based on a hunch or suspicion but requires more solid evidence. It determines an offense has been committed and the defendant is guilty thereof. In order to make a probable cause determination, the court must find that a reasonable person would believe that a crime was, is being, or will be committed.

While the term often gets different definitions under the law, probable cause is based on a common sense approach.

The documentation judges usually review to make probable cause determination includes the warrant affidavit. However, when a person is arrested for a misdemeanor, they primarily review the police report.

Should the Motion Be Filed During the Arraignment Hearing?

A criminal defense lawyer can only file a PC 991 motion during the arraignment hearing, which is the first time a defendant appears in court after arrest.

Under California law, an arraignment must occur within 48 hours of an individual arrest for a misdemeanor crime. During the arraignment hearing, defendants are briefed on their criminal charges. In this phase, criminal defense lawyers also enter the initial plea.

A PC 991 motion is filed after the defendant pleads not guilty to the charges.

Who Can File a PC 991 Motion to Dismiss a Misdemeanor Crime?

Defendants and criminal defense lawyers can file a PC 911 motion to dismiss criminal charges.

However, the PC 991 motion is not available to any individual charged in a criminal case.

It can only be filed if the defendant meets a few criteria, including:

  • Has been charged with a misdemeanor
  • Has pleaded not guilty
  • Has been in custody until the arraignment hearing.

In this sense, a PC 991 motion can only be filed by the defendant or his criminal defense lawyers if they meet the three criteria mentioned above and during the arraignment hearing for a misdemeanor.

These motions are not valid for felonies or defendants who plead guilty or do not contest.

Why Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer File a PC 991 Motion?

Criminal defense attorneys consider filing a 991 motion as part of their defense strategy, as getting it denied would not affect the case in any way.

However, a granted motion results in the dismissal of criminal charges when the criminal justice process is just starting.

Additionally, when the motion is successful, the defendants can:

  • Get out of jail
  • Have clean criminal records
  • Save on legal defense costs
  • Save time as they no longer have to defend themselves against the charges
  • Ge back to their normal life in just a couple of days

How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help in These Cases?

A criminal defense attorney will do everything possible to defend the accused and get the case dismissed, saying that there is not enough evidence to support the misdemeanor charges or claiming that their clients did not have fair criminal proceedings.

However, if you are facing someone who has committed a misdemeanor offense in court, you can seek help from personal injury lawyers!

A personal injury attorney goes to great lengths to defend victims who have been physically or psychologically affected by others’ negligent or willful actions. These experts represent claimants seeking compensation for their injuries or suffering if it’s caused by someone else.

These Are Some Tasks Personal Injury Experts Can Handle

Collect Evidence

A personal injury attorney can gather all the evidence you need to support your claim against the defendant or file a complaint for the same criminal conduct after the charges are first dismissed due to the PC 991 motion. The evidence these specialists usually collect includes relevant documents, witness testimonies, photographs from the scene, and more!

Deal with Insurance Companies

Personal injury experts are ready and prepared to negotiate with insurance companies and obtain maximum compensation for victims. In addition, these lawyers also handle all communications with insurers to prevent their clients from wasting time and help them recover as they deserve.

Represent Victims Before the Jury

A personal injury attorney can defend claimants in a felony case or other circumstances involving criminal conduct and fight for their legal rights. If the defendant files a Penal Code 991 motion, these experts have the knowledge and experience to collect sufficient evidence to support the charges!

Other Things Personal Injury Lawyers Can Do

  • Investigate claims
  • Engage in negotiations or prepare legal action when insurance companies refuse to offer fair compensation
  • Examine the evidence carefully
  • Prepares you for the trial
  • Helps you understand your rights
  • And more!

What If the Court Determines There’s Insufficient Evidence?

If the court determines that there is insufficient evidence in a criminal case, a personal injury lawyer can help you gather the necessary evidence to face the at-fault party again. Remember that there is one more chance to allege misdemeanor conduct against a person if the judge grants the Penal Code 991 motion.

Personal injury attorneys will do everything possible to protect you and hold the person who caused your injuries accountable for their actions. Therefore, these specialists know all the legal tactics and procedures to contest a Penal Code 991 motion granted in court.

Call Ehline Law and Get a Free Consultation Today!

Ehline Law has a team of personal injury lawyers trained to help you build your case and fight for your rights in court in a criminal case against someone who caused you pain and suffering.

Our experts know all the difficulties that a person can face after suffering an accident due to the negligence of others or an attack by a criminal!

Fortunately, we know the laws that can protect you and will help you know your rights, collect enough evidence, and prepare to succeed in front of a jury!

If your abuser’s charges are dismissed due to a Penal Code 991 motion, don’t worry! We will do everything we can to prove that there is sufficient evidence to charge the defendant with misconduct!

Our tireless injury lawyers fighters strive to help all victims in:

Do not hesitate to contact our seasoned team of lawyers and get a free consultation today! Remember that Ehline Law is ready to help you!

Top Notch American Injury Lawyer, Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline

Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.

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