nolle prosequi | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Procedural Law

Nolle Prosequi is a Latin legal phrase meaning “will no longer prosecute;” formal notice by a prosecutor that a case is being dropped.

Nolle prosequi is a Latin legal phrase that means “will no longer prosecute.” It is a formal notice given by a prosecutor that a case is being dropped and will not be pursued further. This decision can be made for a variety of reasons, such as lack of evidence, witness unavailability, or a decision to focus resources on other cases.

An Important Tool for Prosecutors

Nolle prosequi is an important tool for prosecutors, as it allows them to exercise discretion in determining which cases to pursue and which cases to drop. The decision to drop a case can be based on a variety of factors, including the strength of the evidence, the availability of witnesses, and the likelihood of obtaining a conviction.

Nolle Prosequi and Defendants

While the decision to drop a case through this mechanism is ultimately up to the prosecutor, the defendant also has certain rights in this process. For example, if a prosecutor drops a case through nolle prosequi, the defendant is entitled to know why the case was dropped and to challenge the decision if they believe it was made for improper reasons.

Nolle prosequi can be used in both criminal and civil cases. In criminal cases, it is typically used to drop charges against a defendant who has been arrested or indicted. In civil cases, it can be used to drop a lawsuit that has been filed against a defendant.

The use of this can have important implications for the defendant, as it can result in the charges being dropped entirely and the defendant being released from custody or having their case dismissed. However, it is important to note that it does not prevent the government from re-filing charges against the defendant at a later time if new evidence comes to light.

Nolle Prosequi as a Bargaining Tool

In some cases, nolle prosequi may also be used as a bargaining tool in plea negotiations. Prosecutors may use the threat of dropping charges through nolle prosequi to encourage a defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge or to provide information that could lead to the prosecution of other individuals.

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Last Modified: 06/30/2023


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