Dead Docket in Georgia
Prosecutors have the ability to postpone or terminate criminal cases in a couple of ways. Dead docket, dismissal, and nolle prosequi are all ways a criminal case can be concluded. However, these situations are often misunderstood. It is important to thoroughly research all of your options in your case. These legal situations can get confusing and often overwhelm defendants. That is why the Georgia Criminal Lawyers at Lawson and Berry are here to help! We have over 50 combined years of experience. We understand every nuance of the criminal justice system and are prepared to advise you on the best options for your case.
What is a Dead Docket?
Most people are under the misconception that dead docket is the same as a dismissal. However, that is not the case. Dead docket is the term used when the prosecutor wants a case to be postponed indefinitely. The case is not dismissed!
First, it is important to understand what a docket is in the legal system. The docket is the list of cases the clerk of court maintains. When a case is closed due to conviction, dismissal, or plea, the case is removed from the docket and goes to the closed files. Sometimes a case has not been closed, but there is a need for it to be removed from the docket. That is where the term “dead docket” comes in. Once a case has been moved to a dead docket, the case will not appear on a judge's docket unless they order it to be placed back on the active trial calendar.
In sum, dead docket is a list of inactive criminal cases that have not been terminated. Many cases remain there indefinitely without any further action.
Why Would a Case Be Dead Docketed?
There are many reasons why a prosecutor would seek for a case to be moved to the dead docket. One reason may be because there is weak or questionable evidence in a case. The prosecutor may not want to dismiss the case entirely, so they request for the case to be moved to the dead docket.
Another reason is if a victim does not wish for the case to be prosecuted further. The prosecution may give the accused a chance to show that there will not be further offenses. In addition, a case may be moved to a dead docket if the defendant has significant medical issues that prevent them from appearing in court. However, the case can be transferred back to the trial calendar once the accused is medically well enough to appear in court.
If My Case is Moved to a Dead Docket, is that the End of My Case?
The short answer is no. Even though it is on the dead docket, the judge can order the case to be placed back on the trial calendar. The defendant can make a demand for trial, or they can request for the case to be dismissed.
What Will Appear on my Criminal Record?
Because dead docket does not result in a dismissal, the charges will still appear on your criminal history.
However, after a case has been on the dead docket for at least twelve months, the defendant can request a record restriction under Georgia law.
Isn't There a Statute of Limitations for my Case?
There is a statute of limitations for criminal cases, but it applies to the initiation of the case. Georgia law sets a time limit for when prosecution must begin. Because the case has already been indicted, the statute of limitations has been satisfied.
Are There Benefits of Dead Docket to Defendants?
While it may not seem like the best option, there are benefits of a dead docket. First, it releases the accused from having to appear before the court for calendar calls or hearings.
Second, it releases the bond. If there is a cash bond, then it will be returned. If there is a surety bond, then they are no longer on the hook for ensuring the accused's appearance.
One of the most important benefits of dead docket is that if the case remains on it for at least twelve months, then the defendant can request a record restriction under Georgia law.
Lastly, most cases that are moved to a dead docket never come back on an active trial calendar. Therefore, most defendants never face prosecution for the charge.
Dead docket is just one of the procedural devices the prosecution can request in your case. It is understandable that people confuse dead docket with dismissal or nolle prosequi, but it is an entirely different situation! When deciding whether to agree to place your case on a dead docket, you must consult with a criminal defense attorney in Georgia! Your future is at stake! Contact Georgia’s premier defense firm and speak with one of our lawyers now. We are available to you no matter the day or time. Call now.