Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Nolle Prosequi Definition:

Latin: no prosecution.

Related Terms: Retraxit, Nolo Contendere, Acquittal

An ancient common law and Latin law term referring to an open declaration by a plaintiff that he or she gives up any future prosecution of a claim at law.

Similar to a retraxit except that the latter is a final and forever conclusive declaration whereas a nolle prosequi is not necessarily and the suit given up can be revived in exceptional circumstances such as material mistake as to the identify of the defendant.

Nolle prosequi is primarily reserved for criminal law proceedings and is the termination of extant proceedings as against a particular defendant.

Contrary to an acquittal, the entry of a nolle prosequi does not stop future prosecution for the alleged offence:

"The acquittal of the alleged conspirator does free the accused from further prosecution for the offense charged. The nolle prosequi does not. As in the case of disagreement of a jury, the prisoner has not been convicted or acquitted, and may again be put upon his defence.

"It is not a bar to a second indictment covering the same matter, although it does terminate the proceedings in which the nolle prosequi occurs."1


  • Brown, Archibald, A New Law Dictionary and Institute of the Whole Law for the Use of Students, the Legal Profession and the Public (London: Stevens & Sons, 1874), Page 314
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Legal Definition of Discontinuance
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Legal Definition of Retraxit
  • United States v. Fox, 130 F. 2d 56 (Justice Goodrich, Circuit Court of Appeals, 1942 - NOTE 1)
  • Walsh, C., Jowitt’s Dictionary of English Law (London: Sweet & Maxwell Limited, 1959), page 1229

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