Category Archives: Dismissal

State v. Carneh: Why Defense Attorneys Should Seek Dismissals WITH Prejudice

Dismissed with Prejudice – The Civilian

In State v. Carneh, the WA Court of Appeals decided the Prosecution could refile charges on a defendant after previously dismissing the case without prejudice. 

Typically, prosecutors dismiss cases in one of two ways: with prejudice, or without prejudice.   Dismissing a case with prejudice means prosecutors cannot refile future charges against the defendant.  However, dismissing  without prejudice means the prosecutor may, in the future, refile charges at time if (1) statute of limitations has not expired, (2) jurisdiction still exists, and (3) prosecutors develop substantial probable cause to refile. 

In this case, the State charged Carneh with four counts of aggravated murder in March 2001.  After extensive and periodically successful competency restoration treatment, the trial court ultimately dismissed the case without prejudice because it found Carneh was incompetent to stand trial at that time.  The State refiled charges after learning that Carneh had shown signs of improvement.  The trial court ordered further competency restoration.

RCW 10.77.086 provides that if competency restoration efforts are ultimately unsuccessful, “the charges shall be dismissed without prejudice, and either civil commitment proceedings shall be instituted or the court shall order the release of the defendant.”  After a trial court dismisses charges without prejudice pursuant to this statute, it loses the criminal jurisdiction and with it the authority to order competency evaluation or restoration.  But the statute reserves the prosecutor’s ability to refile charges and makes clear that the bar against trying incompetent defendants lasts only so long as such incapacity continues.

The prosecutor’s ability to refile is not unfettered; rather, the prosecutor must have a good faith basis to believe that competency has or will likely be restored.  In this case, the prosecutor received a letter from Western State Hospital indicating that Carneh’s condition had improved.  The letter was sufficient good faith basis to refile.  The trial court thereby reacquired criminal jurisdiction and with it the authority to order further competency restoration.  Ouch!!

My opinion?  Division II made a painfully reasonable  decision.  Competent defense attorneys should know that prosecutors may refile charges at any time if a case is dismissed without prejudice.  The remedy?  Whenever possible, defense attorneys should seek dismissals with prejudice. 

True, our knee-jerk reaction is, quite simply, to take a dismissal in any form or fashion.  We’re grateful to get them for our clients, and nobody wants to look a gift horse in the mouth.   Still, a dismissal without prejudice obviously comes with strings attached.  Indeed, worst-case scenario like State v. Carneh could arise. 

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Drug Courts Huge Success

What You Need to Know About Drug Court and Addiction
A National Study found that Drug Courts are widely successful. Here’s a summary of the study’s findings:

Graduates of drug courts are less likely to be rearrested than persons processed through traditional court mechanics. Findings from drug court evaluations show that participation in drug courts results in fewer rearrests and reconvictions, or longer periods between arrests.


Nationwide, drug courts save taxpayer dollars compared to simple probation and/or incarceration, primarily due to reductions in arrests, case processing, jail occupancy and victimization costs. While not all persons diverted to drug court would have otherwise been sentenced to prison, for those individuals who are incarcerated, the average annual cost is estimated to be $23,000 per inmate, while the average annual cost of drug court participation is estimated to be $4,300 per person.


The study showed that Drug Courts which reward/sanction all levels of good/bad behavior recognize there is value in incremental progress toward the goal of abstinence.

A participant who faithfully makes all court appearances and meets the obligations of the court may be rewarded with an acknowledgement of accomplishment.  On the other hand, developing a flexible, graduated sanction program is a crucial contributor to a successful drug court program, because even those who are eventually successful in drug court tend first to relapse, warrant, and violate other program rules.

The study concluded that sanctioning should be seen as an opportunity to adjust treatment to limit subsequent relapse, rather than the first step on the path to an eventual termination of drug court participation and a likely sentence to custody.


One of the unique aspects of the drug court model is the frequency with which judges interact with participants. The relationship is less formalistic than in traditional courtrooms and is individualized based on the judge’s supervision of an individual’s progress.  The goal is partnership, not sentencing. 
My opinion?  I’m a HUGE fan of drug court!  First, it’s a great negotiating alternative for my clients facing drug charges IF the prosecutor’s charges are fairly strong, evidence is unlikely to be suppressed, and a jury would probably find the offender guilty. 
Second, it’s impossible to treat drug addiction with jail or prison sentences.  Period.  Once released, the offender may likely continue using drugs.  Drug Court strikes at the root of the problem by addressing the drug addiction itself.  Finally, the program forces offenders to stay focused on treatment.  The State monitors treatment.  If offenders fail, they may face heavy consequences and get kicked out of Drug Court.
Drug Court should be implemented to a greater degree than it already is.  It presents a win/win situation for everyone: the public, courts, prosecutors, and ultimately the offender.
Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member face a Drug Offense or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.


State v. Brooks: WA Court Rightfully Dismisses Criminal Charges Because Prosecution Withheld Evidence

Prosecutorial Misconduct / Mishaps In FCPA Cases - FCPA Professor

In State v. Brooks, the WA Court of Appeals dismissed a criminal case due to prosecutorial mismanagement and withholding  of evidence.

My opinion?  It’s about time!  The prosecutors, God bless ’em, usually have the upper hand with judges.   Typically, judges won’t sanction prosecutors or dismiss cases due to prosecutorial misconduct, mismanagement, or withholding of evidence (trust me, I’ve tried).

This opinion opens the door for judges to exercise more discretion in dismissing poorly managed cases.  In this case, the prosecutor withheld a a 60-page victim statement from the defense until the day of trial.   Unbelievable!

Imagine this: your attorney has geared up for trial.  They agonizingly prepped the case from start to finish.  Attorney has their theme, theory, motions in limine, opening statement, closing statement, voir dire questions, direct exam questions, and cross exam questions fully prepared before entering the court.  All of the sudden, prosecutor plops a huge pamphlet of papers in front of defense attorney’s face.

“Sorry you have no time to review this new statement, but go ahead and cross examine my witness on this.”  Unbelievable.  We have no idea what the statement contains.  If admitted to evidence, this unread statement could, by itself, utterly throw your case theory out the window.

The Court of Appeals has boldly decided these “Hide the Ball” shenanigans are going to get cases dismissed.  That governmental mismanagement materially affects a defendant’s right to a fair trial.  Good.  I understand that prosecutors work hard.  Their caseloads are huge.  But hey, let’s be real, people’s lives and liberty are at stake.  Constitutional rights are at risk.  Consequently, cases should be dismissed when poorly handled and/or mismanaged.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.