Is Nolle Prosse the Same as Having a Case Dismissed?

A person seeking a paralegal degree needs to understand different elements of criminal and civil procedure, including judicial processes like that associated with nolle prosse. This is the abbreviated term for nolle prosequi. One question about nolle prosequi is whether it is the same as having a case dismissed?

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What is Nolle prosse?

Nolle prosse is a Latin phrase that roughly translates into English as “not willing to prosecute.” Nolle prosse is a mechanism that brings a judicial action to an end, according to Cornell University School of Law. In the United States, in those instances in which nolle prosse is utilized, it is most likely to be in a criminal case. Nolle prosequi is not widely utilized in civil case in the United States.

The most common example of nolle prosse being used in the United States is when a prosecutor makes the decision not to pursue a criminal charge any further once a case has commenced. This occurs in situations that include when a prosecutor determines that a defendant is not guilty of the charged crime. A host of other reasons can exist for a prosecutor deciding not to carry on with a criminal prosecution.

A declaration of nolle prosse can have the same impact on a case as a motion to dismiss. With that said, the nolle prosse process is not technically the same as a motion to dismiss a case. A judge seldom challenges a declaration of this nature.

Types of Case Dismissals

In the United States, criminal and civil cases usually end up dismissed in one of three different ways, nolle prosse not being one of them. The three most common methods of dismissing a criminal or civil case are:

  • dismissal with prejudice
  • dismissal without prejudice
  • dismissal by motion of the court

A dismissal with prejudice is one in which a case cannot be refiled and started again. A dismissal without prejudice permits a case to be refiled and pursued at future date. These two types of dismissals occur upon a motion filed by one of the parties to a particular case.

In addition to these two type of dismissals, a court can dismiss a case on its own motion. When a judge takes this step, he or she can order the dismissal with or without prejudice.

Most Famous U.S. Cases Ended by Nolle Prosequi

There are a trio of well-known U.S. cases that were ended by a declaration of nolle prosequi. The first of these was the prosecution of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America. The prosecution of professional basketball player Kobe Bryant was ended via a declaration of nolle prosequi. Finally, charges against Osama bin Laden were dispatched via a declaration of this type when he was killed.

The use of motions to dismiss criminal and civil cases alike are ubiquitous in judicial systems on the federal and state levels across the United States. As a result, the odds that a person with a paralegal degree will ever face a real-life situation involving nolle prosse is not great.