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What Is Nolle Prosequi?

There are instances when a plaintiff or the legal counsel for the prosecution no longer wishes to continue with litigation against the accused or the defendant. When this occurs, a declaration can be made by the prosecutor announcing that his or her client no longer wishes to continue due to lack of evidence to prove guilt, belief that the accused is not guilty, or the accused died. Such a declaration is referred to as Nolle Prosequi.


Nolle Prosequi is a Latin declaration that literally translates to “be unwilling to pursue” and the subsequent meaning of “please do not prosecute.” The legal term has been colloquially shortened to nol pros, and can be declared after indictment and up until before a verdict is given.


Many reasons exist for a plaintiff in a civil case or a prosecutor in a criminal case to declare nolle prosequi. As aforementioned, it is possible that there is the belief of the defendant’s innocence. This can occur when evidence or testimonies prove that the defendant did not in fact commit whatever offense he or she has been charged of. Another possible event is that the case filed by the prosecution has no proof; thus, the prosecutor declares nolle prosequi, which appears in the case record.


If the defense can prove that there exist fundamental flaws in the case of the prosecution, the case can be declared as nolle prosequi. This can happen if an integral witness provides a testimony contrary to the guilt of the defendant or the witness is discredited.

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