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Motion to Dismiss Misdemeanor Charges at Arraignment – Penal Code 991 PC

Posted by Sam Israels | Dec 11, 2019

Once you are charged with a crime, you have certain legal rights make sure of fair criminal proceedings and for an opportunity to defend yourself against the charges.

Part of the fair proceedings is right to a court arraignment within a reasonable amount of time – usually 48 hours. At the arraignment hearing, the charges that were filed against you will be explained by the judge, who will also read your rights, set bail, take your plea, and accept preliminary hearing motions.

If charged with a misdemeanor crime and have reason to believe there is insufficient evidence to support the case, a Penal Code 991 motion can be filed. This is normally a probable cause challenge by making a request to the court to dismiss the case due to insufficient evidence.

A Penal Code 911 motion is a motion by an in-custody defendant at a misdemeanor arraignment. It's asking the judge to find there is insufficient probable cause to support the charge. If the motion is granted, the charge is dismissed and defendant is released from custody.

Obviously, if a prosecutor lacks probable cause, they can't establish the burden of proof to secure a conviction. A misdemeanors crime is the least serious type of a criminal offense. There are many differences prosecuting a misdemeanor or felony case, but one primary distinction is the procedure by how probable cause is determined.

In most felony prosecutions, a preliminary hearing is scheduled where a judge will determine if probable cause exist. These hearings have similar features of a jury trial, including testimony from witnesses, arguments from your criminal defense lawyer and prosecutor, and where there are decisions made on any contested issues in the case.

In California misdemeanor cases, you will not normally be entitled to a preliminary hearing. However, if you are a defendant in a misdemeanor case and remain in custody before you are taken to court arraignment, your criminal lawyer can ask the judge for a probable cause determination similar to felony case preliminary hearing.

It should be noted that a Penal Code 991 motion is only available if you remain is custody. If you bail out prior to your first court date in a misdemeanor case, you can't make this type of motion. If you are facing a felony offense, there is a similar action known as a Penal Code 995 motion.

To give readers a better understanding of a PC 991 motion, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing an overview below.

Definition of California Penal Code 991

California Penal Code 991 defines motion to dismiss misdemeanor case at arraignment:

If a defendant is in custody when they appear for misdemeanor arraignment and they plead not guilty, the judge, on a motion from defendant's attorney, will determine whether probable cause exist to believe a crime was committed and the defendant is guilty.

The court will normally make the probable cause determination immediately, but if there is good cause, they can continue the probable cause hearing for a maximum of three days.

A continuance might be necessary to give the prosecutor time to put together evidence and prepare for the court hearing.

Probable Cause Determination

In order to make a probable cause determination, the judge will review documentation, such as a warrant affidavit from the law enforcement, police report of the alleged crime, and other relevant documents.

In a normal misdemeanor arrest, which don't usually have a sworn warrant affidavit, the evidence reviewed by the judge will consist of the police report.

Penal Code 991(d) instructs the court to set the case for trial if they determine there is probable cause to believe you committed the crime alleged in the complaint.

Probable cause is described in different ways under the law, but it typically relies on a common sense approach where there is reasonable suspicion to believe an actual crime was committed, and that the person charged is the same person who committed the crime.

It should be noted this standard is much easier for a prosecutor than the infamous “proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” standard that will apply in a jury trial.

Potential Results of a PC 991 Motion

The judge will grant or deny your PC 991 motion. If it was denied, then your criminal case will proceed normally through the court process, but you can still challenge the evidence later though other legal motions.

If the judge decides there is insufficient evidence to support probable cause, they will immediately dismiss the complaint and release you from custody.

It should be noted this doesn't always mean an end to the case. If your misdemeanor complaint was dropped after a probable cause hearing under  Penal Code 991, the prosecution will have 15 days to refile the complaint for the same criminal conduct.

If the second filing ends in a dismissal of the complaint, it's a permanent bar to future prosecution on the same conduct.  This means Los Angeles County prosecutors get two chances to allege misdemeanor conduct against you.

Consult with Cron, Israels & Stark for Help

If you or a family member has been charged with a misdemeanor case and remain in custody in Los Angeles County, contact our criminal defense lawyers to review the chances of filing a Penal Code 991 motion. This legal action is an early challenge to the charges and could end the case quickly if successful.

If you are charged with a misdemeanor crime and need information on the options for filing a PC 991 motion for a probable cause hearing, we can help you.

Even misdemeanor charges can result in life-altering consequences. You will need experienced legal representation to have the best chance at success. We need to first review all the details of you case in order to determine an appropriate strategy.

Cron, Israels & Stark is a highly experienced team of criminal defense lawyers with a track record of success. We serve clients throughout the greater Los Angeles area. Our office is located at 11755 Wilshire Blvd, 15th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025. For a free case consultation, call us at (424) 372-3112.

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About the Author

Sam Israels

Sam J. Israels is a Law Firm partner with the Law Offices of Cron, Israels, & Stark. Mr. Israels received his J.D. degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law. Mr. Israels also previously worked at the Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney. He is admitted to practice law in the State o...

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