The term “nolle prosequi” is a Latin phrase that means “unwilling to pursue.” Pronounced as nol·le pros·e·qui (nälē ˈpräsəˌkwē), the term is sometimes abbreviated as “nolle prosse” or “no pross.”
Under common law in the United States, the term was used by the prosecutor to declare voluntarily ending a criminal case after the filing of formal charges but before the case could be dismissed by the court or a verdict could be rendered at trial.
Is nolle prosequi a good thing? Yes, the “nolle prosequi” is good because it represents the formal notice of abandonment of the prosecution without a conviction.
The fact that the prosecutor entered a “nolle prosequi” is similar to having the case dismissed by the court, although when the case is dismissed by the court on an involuntary basis, the prosecutor is typically prohibited from refiling the charge.
Depending on the circumstances, it might be advantageous for the defense attorney to object to the entry of the “nolle prosequi” and instead request that the court enter an involuntary dismissal.
In addition to an entry of a nolle prosequi, the other ways in which a criminal case might be terminated in a favorable way for the defense include:
- a “no file” decision after the arrest but before the filing of any formal charge;
- an order of dismissal reflecting an affirmative decision not to prosecute;
- a dismissal based on insufficient evidence, the running of the statute of limitations, or a speedy trial issue;
- a judgment of acquittal (JOA);
- an acquittal at trial by virtue of a “not guilty” verdict;
- a granted writ of habeas corpus.
If an arrest is made, but the prosecutor declines to file any formal charges, then the termination of the case is accomplished by the filing of a “no file” form without the need for a nolle prosequi.
Attorney to Expunge the “Nolle Prosequi” Record
People often ask whether they have a criminal record if the prosecution was terminated with a “nolle prosequi.” The short answer is that the “nolle prosequi” is a public record that might show up in a background check.
Nevertheless, the nolle prosequi is unlikely to stop you from getting a job since it means the underlying prosecution was terminated without a conviction.
In Florida, the nolle prosequi does NOT automatically result in the criminal history record being expunged. Instead, a person must take affirmative actions to obtain a court-ordered expunction of the criminal history record.
The expunction of the criminal history record is the only way to make sure the mug shot, police report, and docket are not a public record that would show up in a background check. Contact an attorney at Sammis Law Firm for more information on how to seal or expunge a criminal record after a nolle prosequi.
For any criminal record in Florida, our attorneys charge $950 in attorney fees plus the costs that must be paid to any third parties (including the $75 application fee to FDLE).
Why the Prosecutor Might Enter a “Nolle Prosse”?
Why would a prosecutor file formal charges only to later enter a “nolle prosse”? The prosecutor might decide to drop the charges for any of the following reasons:
- the successful completion of a pre-trial diversion program;
- realizing that insufficient evidence supports the charges;
- finding out a witness is unavailable or waivers; or
- learning that the witness filed a request not to prosecute.
If a person completes a pretrial intervention program (PTI) or misdemeanor intervention program (MIP), then an assistant state attorney with the State Attorney’s Office will file a “notice of administrative nolle prosequi.”
Additionally, the State Attorney’s Office might enter an administrative nolle prosequi in Florida “due to the age of the case.” When the administrative nolle prosequi is filed with the clerk of court, it triggers a process to recall any outstanding warrant or capias.
Hiring a criminal justice lawyer quickly after an accusation or arrest remains one of the most effective ways to defend yourself against an unfair prosecution. By fighting the charges, the criminal defense attorney might convince the prosecutor to enter the nolle prosse.
Impact of the Nolle Prosequi on Speedy Trial in Florida
Under Florida law, a nolle prosequi is “self-executing upon its announcement and immediately terminates the proceeding.” State v. Aguilar, 987 So. 2d 1233, 1235 (Fla. 5th DCA 2008). Additionally, “no approval of the trial court is required.” Id.
Pursuant to Rule 3.191(o), the intent and effect of Florida’s speedy trial rule “shall not be avoided by the state by entering a nolle prosequi to a crime charged and by prosecuting a new crime grounded on the same conduct or criminal episode or otherwise by prosecuting new and different charges based on the same conduct or criminal episode whether or not the pending charge is suspended, continued, or is the subject of entry of a nolle prosequi.”
Difference Between a Nolle Prosse and a Acquittal
While the prosecutor triggers a nolle prosse, an “acquittal” is a decision by a court or a jury in favor of the defendant. An acquittal “‘actually represents a resolution, correct or not, of some or all of the factual elements of the offense charged.'” Smith v. Massachusetts, 543 U.S. 462, 468, 125 S. Ct. 1129, 160 L. Ed. 2d 914 (2005) (quoting Martin Linen Supply Co., 430 U.S. at 571).
This article was last updated on Friday, January 28, 2022.