What does it mean when the DA “rejects” a case?

Orange County Criminal Law – “Rejected” case?

When the police get done with their investigation, they package up their reports and submit them to the Orange County DA’s office.  From there, it gets assigned to one of the prosecutors for review.  Essentially, they have three choices:

  1. They decide there’s enough evidence to file charges.
  2. They decide there isn’t enough evidence and formally reject the charges.
  3. They reject the case for “further investigation” and send it back to the police.

If they decide to file charges:

The statute of limitations – how long the DA has to file – is (generally) one year on misdemeanors and three years on most felonies.   They have up to that time to file charges.  As long as charges are filed within that time frame, they’ve met their obligation.  (It’s a different issue if they issue a warrant, but don’t bring you to court for quite some time.)

If they decline to file charges and reject the case:

In most instances, that’s it.  While they still have the entire statute of limitations to file, once a case is submitted, reviewed and rejected, they’ve made their decision.  In some cases, it can be resubmitted by law enforcement if they develop further evidence, but typically, if it’s rejected, it stays rejected.

What if they send it back for “further investigation”?

It may be something as simple as getting lab results on a drug or DUI case and having it resubmitted.  It may be more complex, requiring witness interviews, accident reconstruction, etc.  Either way, the DA sends the case back to the police agency and asks them to resubmit when whatever was missing is supplied.

Sometimes, that re-submission happens quickly.  Other times, depending on the complexity and the seriousness of the charge, it may take months.  Or it may never happen.  Until the statute of limitations lapses, you’re not totally in the clear.

So what do you do?

If you’re under investigation, most importantly, protect yourself.  The worst thing you can do is to help the DA gather evidence against you.  Don’t make any statements that can come back to haunt you.  No facebook, no myspace, no twitter, no texting…. nothing.  Assume anything you say will be used against you.  This also means that until you are 100% convinced (after consulting with your lawyer) that you’re in the clear, I wouldn’t suggest you call the investigator on the case.  See this link for information about “Should you call a detective back?

Next – consult with an Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney.  There are things you can do for the best outcome.  Just because you’re waiting doesn’t mean you can’t begin building your defense.

Joe Dane, Orange County Defense Attorney

(714) 532-3600