Dismiss, Motion to

Unless otherwise indicated, all indented material is copied directly from the court’s opinion.

Decisions of the Tennessee Supreme Court

Decisions of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeal

State v. Tekle, No. E2022-00686-CCA-R3-CD, p. 9 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Mar. 31, 2023). 

Appellate courts are to use a two-step process to review a trial court’s decision to grant a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12, Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure. Id. at 403. First, the reviewing court determines whether the trial court based its decision on findings of law, which would be appropriate, or findings of fact, which should have been presented to a jury. Id. Second, for questions of law, we review the trial court’s findings de novo with no presumption of correctness. Id.

State v. Potts, No. W2021-01508-CCA-R3-CD, p. 10 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 14, 2023). 

“A motion to dismiss under Rule 12 allows the trial court to decide issues that are ripe for resolution without a full trial on the merits.” State v. Sherman, 266 S.W.3d 395, 403 (Tenn. 2008). “Generally speaking, pre-trial motions to dismiss that are ‘capable of determination’ involve questions of law, rather than fact.” Id. (citing United States v. Schulman, 817 F.2d 1355, 1358 (9th Cir. 1987) (“A Rule 12 . . . motion to dismiss is appropriately granted when it is based on questions of law rather than fact.”)). However, the trial court “may make some findings of fact, so long as it does not encroach upon the province of the jury.” Id. (citing United States v. Jones, 542 F.2d 661, 665 (6th Cir. 1976)). When the trial court applies a statute to “undisputed facts,” that application remains an issue of law, which we review de novo. Id. at 403-404.

State v. Turner, No.M2020-01729-CCA-R3-CD, pg. 18 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. June 6, 2022).

We review a trial court’s ruling on a motion to dismiss the indictment for an abuse of discretion. State v. Harris, 33 S.W.3d 767, 769-70 (Tenn. 2000). “A trial court abuses its discretion when it applies incorrect legal standards, reaches an illogical conclusion, bases its ruling on a clearly erroneous assessment of the proof, or applies reasoning that causes an injustice to the complaining party.” State v. Phelps, 329 S.W.3d 436, 443 (Tenn. 2010).


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