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What is Nolle Prosequi?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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The Latin term "nolle prosequi" is a formal entry in a court record which indicates that the prosecutor or plaintiff does not intend to pursue the matter. Nol-pros or nol pros as it is sometimes known may be entered at any time after charges have been filed, up until a verdict is delivered. In some legal systems, once a case has gone to trial, the permission of a judge may be required in order to enter nolle prosequi and drop the case.

There are a number of reasons why a civil plaintiff or criminal prosecutor might decide to drop a case after it has been filed in court. One reason is a demonstration of innocence. For example, if a prosecutor receives information that someone who has been charged with robbery categorically did not commit the crime, he or she will ask to drop the case, since there is no point in prosecuting someone who is innocent.

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Another reason might be a situation in which a case cannot be proved. This can sometimes be hard to discern before charges are filed and charges may be filed anyway even when a case is moderately weak in the hopes that additional supporting material can be gathered to make the case stronger and worth pursuing in court. However, if it becomes evident that it will be difficult to prove the case, the prosecutor or plaintiff will drop the case and the record will bear a note of nolle prosequi to indicate that the charges were dropped.

Demonstration that there are fundamental flaws in the case as presented may also be cause for nolle prosequi. This can occur during trial as the prosecutor or plaintiff has a chance to see the other side in action. If, for example, a witness is discredited on the stand and that witness is key to the case, nolle prosequi may be filed because the case is too flawed to pursue.

This term, which translates as “we are unwilling to prosecute,” is one of many Latin terms which continues to be used in legal practice. Care is taken before requesting that a note of nolle prosequi be entered so that the charges can be dropped. The person dropping the charges does not want to make a mistake and give up on a case which actually does have legal merit and would be worth pursuing. In some cases, a judge may overrule the request and insist on hearing the trial anyway.

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Discuss this Article

anon349639
Post 7

Can the federals pick up charges that state files in a nolle prosecution?

anon349638
Post 6

What can you do when your paperwork is wrong on your charges because you lawyer bundled your charges so the charges read wrong or a word is left off your paperwork?

anon349637
Post 5

When a girl lies and a guy gets prosecuted for false charges, what can you do?

live2shop
Post 4

A good friend of mine was on a jury trial a few years ago. The defendant was charged with assault on a police officer during a traffic stop. The jury heard testimony and saw evidence presented, but things just didn't seem to fit.

A witness for the prosecution testified. He was a bystander at the scene. His testimony was so jumbled and he contradicted himself. My friend said the very next day, the prosecution entered a nolle prosequi, and the case was dropped.

My friend didn't know if the defendant was guilty or not, but the

witness was the prosecution's best weapon, and he was a failure. So it goes!

Bertie68
Post 3

It kind of boggles my mind when I hear that the law isn't always consistent among jurisdictions. For example, the article talks about "nolle prosequi" only being used before the case goes to trial, unless the judge gives the "okay." In other jurisdictions, it can be entered anytime after charges are filed up until the verdict is read.

I don't understand why this is so. If and when nolle prosequi is entered could make a big difference. The use of nolle prosequi could possibly send a guilty person free and an innocent person to jail. But at least the law should be consistent.

ceilingcat
Post 2

@KaBoom - Wow! Instances like what you're describing make me glad that nolle prosequi exists! Since you were innocent and they didn't have any evidence prosecuting you would have been a huge waste of time for all involved.

KaBoom
Post 1

I was unaware that nolle prosequi even existed until I had to go to court a few years ago. Someone tried to press charges against me for something that I didn't do. They also obviously had no evidence.

I stormed in to court all ready to defend my innocence. Then when it was my turn the prosecution said they wanted to enter a nolle prosequi in the case and the judge pretty much told me to have a nice day. It was a big relief!

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