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Nolle prosequi is a legal term and statement made in court and reflected upon in court records whereby the plaintiff or prosecutor wishes not to proceed any further in a suit or action. This lesson provides an overview of the definition, meaning, and legal implications of nolle prosequi.

Definition

Nolle prosequi is a Latin phrase meaning ”will no longer prosecute”, ”be unwilling to pursue”, or any variation with the same meaning. The prosecution invokes nolle prosequi (or dismissal) when it has decided to discontinue an entire prosecution or just part of it. Lawyers and judges refer to the charges as being ”nol prossed” or dismissed. It can also be defined as a dismissal of charges by the prosecution.

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Meaning

A declaration of nolle prosequi by a prosecutor in a criminal case or by a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit (either before or during a trial) means the case is being dropped. The case may be dropped for a variety of reasons. These might include that the charges cannot be proven, or evidence that has been gathered demonstrates either innocence or a fatal flaw in the case or claim, or the district attorney has become convinced that the accused is innocent.The effect of a nolle prosequi is the same as charges never having been filed in the first place.

The entry of a nolle prosequi is not an acquittal; therefore, the principle of double jeopardy does not apply. As such, charges can be re-filed if the prosecutor chooses to do so. On the other hand, it is also not a conviction.

The result is that the case is immediately closed, sealed, and expunged if so sought by the defendant.

Lesson Summary

Nolle prosequi is a Latin term used in the legal context to describe a resolution of either a criminal or civil matter where the prosecution refuses to prosecute or take further legal action. In other words, the charges are, for all practical purposes, dismissed. Nolle prosequi should not be confused with an acquittal, which prevents further proceedings against the defendant for the specific conduct in question.

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