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[Latin, Will not prosecute.]
The term nolle prosequi is used in reference to a formal entry upon the record made by a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit or a prosecutor in a criminal action in which that individual declares that he or she wishes to discontinue the action as to certain defendants, certain issues, or altogether. A nolle prosequi is commonly known as nol pros.
(no-lay pro-say-kwee) n. Latin for "we shall no longer prosecute," which is a declaration made to the judge by a prosecutor in a criminal case (or by a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit) either before or during trial, meaning the case against the defendant is being dropped. The statement is an admission that the charges cannot be proved, that evidence has demonstrated either innocence or a fatal flaw in the prosecution's claim, or the district attorney has become convinced the accused is innocent. Understandably, usage of the phrase it is rare. In the 1947 courtroom movie, "Boomerang!" the climactic moment arrived when the District Attorney himself proved the accused person innocent and declared "nolle prosequi."
NOLLE PROSEQUI, practice. An entry made on the record, by which the
prosecutor or plaintiff declares that he will proceed no further.
2. A nolle prosequi may be entered either in a criminal or a civil case. In criminal cases, a nolle prosequi may be entered at any time before the finding of the grand jury, by the attorney general, and generally after a true bill has been found; in Pennsylvania, in consequence of a statutory provision, no nolle prosequi can be entered after a bill has been found, without leave of the court, except in cases of assault and battery, fornication and bastardy, on agreement between the parties, or in prosecutions for keeping tippling houses. Act of April 29, 1819, s. 4, 7 Smith's Laws, 227.
3. A nolle prosequi may be entered as to one ot several defendants. 11 East, R. 307.
4. The effect of a nolle prosequi, when obtained, is to put the defendant without day, but it does not operate as an acquittal; for he may be afterwards reindicted, and even upon the same indictment, fresh process may be awarded. 6 Mod. 261; 1 Salk. 59; Com. Dig. Indictment. K; 2 Mass. R. 172.
5. In civil cases, a nolle prosequi is considered, not to be of the nature of a retraxit or release, as was formerly supposed, but an agreement only, not to proceed either against some of the defendants, or as to part of the suit. Vide 1 Saund. 207, note 2, and the authorities there cited. 1 Chit. PI. 546. A nolle prosequi is now held to be no bar to a future action for the same cause, except in those cases where, from the nature of the action, judgment and execution against one, is a satisfaction of all the damages sustained by the plaintiff. 3 T. R. 511; 1 Wils. 98.
6. In civil cases, a nolle prosequi may be entered as to one of several counts; 7 Wend. 301; or to one of several defendants; 1 Pet. R. 80; as in the case of a joint contract, where one of two defendants pleads infancy, the plaintiff may enter a nolle prosequi, as to him, and proceed against the other. 1 Pick. 500. See, generally, 1 Pet. R. 74; see 2 Rawle, 334; 1 Bibb, 337; 4 Bibb, 887, 454; 3 Cowen, 374; 5 Gill & John. 489; 5 Wend. 224; 20 John. 126; 3 Cowen, 335; 12 Wend. 110; 3 Watts, 460.