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Nolle Prosequi

The term “nolle prosequi” is a Latin phrase that means “unwilling to pursue.” The term is often abbreviated as “nolle pross” or “no pross.”

Under common law in the United States, the term was used by the prosecutor to declare that they were voluntarily ending a criminal case after the filing of formal charges but before a verdict could be rendered at trial.

On the other hand, 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.”

The Defendant attorney might 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:

  • an acquittal at trial;
  • an order of dismissal reflecting an affirmative decision not to prosecute;
  • a dismissal based on the running of the statute of limitations; or
  • a granted writ of habeas corpus.

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 using a “nolle prosse” for a variety of reasons including:

  • the successful completion of a diversion program;
  • realizing that insufficient evidence supports the charges;
  • finding out a witness is unavailable;
  • learning that a witness waivers; or
  • learning that the witness filed a request not to prosecute.

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.


Impact of the Nolle Prosequi on Speedy Trial in Florida

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.”


This article was last updated on Friday, April 17, 2020.

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