By: Cory Yager, Ex-law enforcement officer and legal book author on criminal defense issues
In a criminal case, a Prosecutor who sees a flaw in the Prosecution has the power to drop the prosecution on a charge. Usually, this is only done as part of a plea bargain, and this action only releases the defendant on THAT charge, and not all charges. This process may be different in a CT criminal case or for a nolle prosequi Florida criminal charge.
This 2020 article explains “what is nolle prosequi” and the good, bad, and limited scope of this type of case resolution. Recently, a lady from North Carolina was told by my partner, William Head, that she obtained a nol pros on her criminal charge in a Fulton County court. With a quizzical look she asked, “Is nolle prosequi a good thing? Since this was her sole charge, the answer was yes. The next paragraph explains this qualified “yes” more completely.
If that nol prossed charge was the sole “count” in the accusation or indictment, and a nol pros was entered, the case may not be totally concluded. Under Georgia laws, until the statute of limitations has “run,” a new bill of indictment or accusation can be started by the State’s law officer entrusted with prosecuting cases, the District Attorney (for felony cases) or Solicitor-General (for misdemeanors only).
Nine Common Questions Answered: What Does Nolle Prosequi Mean?
By answering our previous clients’ nine (9) most common nolle pros questions (set forth below), the goal of your author is to provide you with a clear nolle prosequi definition. Plus, examples may help explain that under certain limited conditions and fact patterns, the prosecuting lawyer MAY be able to revive the charge.
- What is nolle prosequi? Most clients ask us how to define nolle prosequi, or how to say or to pronounce nolle prosequi. This online Dictionary description says nälē ˈpräsəˌkwē. Merriam-Webster says it is a transitive verb in its nolle meaning. Looking up YouTube videos found multiple pronunciations different than the Dictionary version. Plus, Amazon has a book by this title.
- Is a nol pros an acquittal? Regardless of the nolle definition or how it is pronounced, the phrase means a prosecutor’s voluntary dismissal of a previously accused charge. The usual situation is that the initial evidence has demonstrated the accused’s innocence or a fatal change in the quality of the prosecution. An example of this latter point is a recent nolle prosequi Georgia case where the prosecution claim was dropped due to the arresting officer being indicted on an unrelated, serious felony. This criminal complaint may have been a “true bill” of an indictment, or a criminal accusation. This dismissal does not equate to a determination of innocence. A nol pros is not an acquittal, such as what a jury does in rendering a not guilty unanimous verdict. However, when a single charge is nol prossed, this usually does not mean that all the charges against you have been dropped.
- How do I get my record expunged in Georgia? July 1, 2013 is a key date to know. For arrests made after that date, the new GA record restriction law under OCGA 35-3-37 may allow you to shield your arrest record from being found by potential employers.
- Is a nol pros the same as expunged in Georgia? No, but read the answer to number 2 above, if arrested July 1, 2013 or after
- Can a nolle prosequi case be reopened? Yes, unless the nol pros was entered in a now closed case for which you (and your criminal attorney near me) also accepted a conviction or nolo contendere plea entered to another charge (or charges), under that same accusation or indictment.
- Can my criminal history records automatically be restricted by the clerk of court as a record restriction Georgia? No, because record restriction is the job of the State of Georgia. The clerks can merely file paperwork as authorized by the presiding judge.
- What Georgia Code section applies to criminal records restrictions? Under Georgia Code, OCGA 35-3-37, a process exists for presenting your nol pros information to the prosecutor of the county or city where the venue took place, to have that person “clear” it for restricting who can view your criminal history. Your goal is to not have the business with whom you are seeking employment find this criminal record.
- Is the nolle prossed definition in Georgia the same as in other states? No, but the laws for “nolle prossed meaning” should be similar. In fact, other nations like Malaysia have statutes for similar dismissals, as was reported in the controversial Pequam case. On some cases, our legal team will contact and work with criminal defense lawyers in other states if you retain our legal advocates on clearing a criminal record.
- Can I expunge DUI Georgia charges after a nolle prosequi indicted felony if a DUI case was dropped in Superior Court? The best answer is, “It depends.” Start with the understanding that DUI expungement in Georgia is prohibited. Essentially, if every part of the indictment were quashed or dismissed, with no original charge remaining, this criminal record could be restricted.
To obtain record restrictions in Georgia, three situations must exist: (a) your criminal case was totally dismissed; (b) and was not presented to a grand jury, or was twice “no-billed” (the grand jurors twice found the case facts to have insufficient evidence) by a grand jury, or (c) if you went through a trial and were found not guilty on every accused charge. For arrests made prior to July 1, 2013, call today for your free consultation with one of our award-winning attorneys in Atlanta.
The statute for such dismissals in Virginia reads as follows: “ Nolle prosequi shall be entered only in the discretion of the court, upon motion of the Commonwealth with good cause therefore shown.” [Nolle prosequi Virginia laws].
In Alabama, a District Court may be the court, and in South Carolina, the Court of Common Pleas. The federal system has district courts at the trial level and these courts would oversee any nol pros cases that are dismissed before judgment is entered. In other states it may be a circuit court granting the dismissal.
In Missouri, the State Attorney General’s office has created an online pamphlet of the criminal justice system, and dismissal of charges is covered in this publication. This helps those who are accused understand the criminal law process in court and at a jury trial.
The most famous criminal prosecution in American history that ended in a nolle prosequi may have been when federal charges were dropped in 1914 against Margaret Sanger, for misuse of the US mail service. She had been indicted in the Southern District of New York under the Comstock Act for mailing out lewd, lascivious publications that did not fit the social mores of that era.
Simply stated, she was advocating birth control but a U.S. federal law provided that the mail service could not be used to disseminate such information. Read more about this fascinating case of having charges dismissed that is still making news today on YouTube and the Internet.
On a Criminal Case in Georgia, does a Nol Pros End the Case?
In Georgia, some other words for dismissed may show up on your court papers, including “DWOP” which means “dismissed for want of prosecution.” The prosecutor handling the case decides whether to proceed in the criminal matter. Our expungement lawyers find that we have many questions and requests to clear criminal records, in particularly domestic violence cases.
Occasionally, a judge will hear the legal issues and delay his or her ruling to allow the prosecutor a little more time to cure the defect in the case. Such an indication is done to shorten the time that the prosecutor must revive the case.
If the DA cannot cure the problem, that judge will later issue the NP order, and (sometimes) will write “nunc pro tunc” back to the date of the hearing. This benefits the accused, and may be a bar to further prosecution once the statute of limitations expires.
Through answering the most common client question about a nolle prossed definition, our law firm can best define what nolle prosequi Georgia means. By the end of this article on dismissal meaning you will know the “dismiss definition.”
One central point needs to be emphasized: If you plead guilty to one of several accused charges in an accusation or indictment, restricting that record may not be possible, after July 1, 2013. Plus, for a nolle prosequi Georgia case, you need to know the practical realities of having a final disposition nolle prosequi criminal record on one or more criminal charges.
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Call today for your FREE consultation at (404) 567-5515. Our Atlanta criminal lawyers are here for you. Ask for Larry Kohn or the author of this article, Cory Yager.