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Charges Against Dominique Hatfield Dismissed

This afternoon, the State of Utah filed a motion to dismiss the charges that were filed against Dominique Hatfield. Here's a quick look at this development and what it may mean for Domo.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Mathew Piper of the Salt Lake Tribune reported earlier today that the State of Utah had filed a Motion to Dismiss all charges against Dominique Hatfield "without prejudice".

Motion to Dismiss

What does "without prejudice" mean?

"Without prejudice" is the term used to tell the court that the State reserves the right to refile charges in the future. In my experience, prosecutors will always file a motion to dismiss without prejudice, in case someone comes forward with new evidence. Most of the time, no new or different charges are filed, although the assistant district attorney has indicated in this case that they may refile charges related to the alleged theft of the phones.

Cases are only very rarely dismissed "with prejudice", meaning that the prosecutor is not allowed to refile charges; usually this happens only in the case of wrongdoing on the part of the prosecution (for example, I represented a criminal defendant where a piece of important evidence was accidentally destroyed by the police. That case was dismissed with prejudice).

This is very likely the end of this process. I think it's fair to proceed as if Dominique Hatfield has been entirely cleared of all charges against him, although it's possible that the State may find new evidence which they feel justifies the refiling of some lesser offense. You will hear media members talking about "without prejudice" as if it means that there is a sword hanging over Mr. Hatfield's head, but in my experience as an attorney that's not a significant risk.

This is a victory for the justice system, and a demonstration of why we can't leap to judgment until we have all the facts. The presumption of innocence is a sacred principle that flows from our Constitution; it's part of the foundation on which our nation is built. Although we as private citizens are under no legal obligation to withhold judgment, we should fight for that principle in our daily lives with the same passion that we defend our freedom of speech and our right to vote. It's one of the first lines of defense against tyranny, and it worked exactly as designed here.