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Legal Speak 101: What Does “Case Disposed” Mean?

In this article of Legal Speak 101, we talk about the term “disposed” in reference to a case. Have you checked on the status of your case and found that it was disposed? Here’s what it means and what you should do next.

What Does “Case Disposed” Mean?

If your case status says that your case has been disposed, it means that the proceedings of your case have been completed, a final order is issued, and the trial has ended. Another way of saying this is if a case has been “junked” or “dismissed.”

In a civil court, a case is disposed after all the charges in the case have been dealt with and the decision has been given. Once a civil case has been disposed, the party that has lost the case can either appeal to a higher court for a chance at a different result, or accept the decision and stop pursuing the case.

The best current example for this was the 2018 ruling of the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The Supreme Court gave a ruling in 2018 that the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop could not be forced to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, but the earliest case goes back in 2012. In 2012, the couple had filed a lawsuit against the cakeshop, and the court ruled in their favor. The cakeshop owner, however appealed to the Court of Appeals and still lost. So, the owner petitioned to the Supreme Court, which ultimately overturned the original decision.

In a criminal case, however, a case is considered disposed if the accused has been acquitted of all charges, the accused has been convicted and sentenced, the prosecution drops all charges, or if the judges believes there is not enough evidence to warrant a trial.

Disposed vs. Disposition law

A case disposed is different from a case disposition. A case disposed generally refers to a case that has been completed. A disposition, however, refers to the different ways how a case could be resolved.

Case dispositions include conviction (the accused is sentenced), acquittal (the accused is declared not guilty by the judge or jury), dismissal (there’s not enough evidence to say that there is an actual crime.

A disposition is different from a verdict. The latter finds the accused either not guilty or guilty of a crime. However, a disposition can indicate whether the verdict points to a guilty or not guilty verdict.

What Happens If I Don’t Appeal?

Let’s say that you have a case and it did not turn out in your favor. Should you not appeal within the given time limit, then the ruling stays unless enough significant evidence rises to overturn the decision. This makes the case a disposed case.

If you feel that there is a higher chance of the decision being overturned, you can opt to appeal to a higher court. You must do this within the given time limit, so you must act as soon as possible. Consult with your lawyer about possible options before your case is disposed.

Can a Lawyer Help You?

A lawyer isn’t required in a trial (you can choose to represent yourself in a court of law), but it’s highly recommended that you have one. Depending on what the case is, you have to find a lawyer within that field to best represent you legally. Lawyers usually specialize in one or two fields of law, so if you have a criminal case, it’s best to get a criminal lawyer. How long a trial lasts also depends on what the case is.

While you are allowed to represent yourself in court, it’s highly discouraged especially if you don’t have any legal experience. If you can’t find a lawyer, one will be provided for you. You can also look for lawyers willing to handle your case pro bono.

Lawyers have spent years studying the law, and you can find lawyers in the field who have handled cases similar to yours. A lawyer can spot signs that a criminal case is weak and has experience challenging evidence better than you can. If your case is high-stakes and you’re prone to emotional, it’s best to have a detached, objective, and legal-savvy lawyer on your side.

To recap, a disposed case is a case that has already reached a decision. The disposition of the case, on the other hand, can vary depending on what the judge decides in court. If your case was disposed but not in your favor, you still have the option of taking your case to a higher court for a chance to overturn the result. However, you need to do this within a certain window period before the ruling is declared final. Should you choose not to act within this window, the result remains and the case is officially disposed.

What other legal terms do you want us to explain in layman terms? Send us a message or comment your questions and terms below!

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