There are many ways to win a legal case, just as there are many ways to define that win. Sometimes, a criminal defense attorney must use unorthodox strategies to get a good outcome for their defendant.
When asking “What does nolle prosequi mean in Nevada?” we must first understand what this Latin term means. Keep reading to learn more about this legal term and what it can mean for your Las Vegas criminal defense case.
What Is Nolle Prosequi?
In legal terms, nolle prosequi is a Latin phrase that means “will no longer prosecute” or “unwilling to pursue.” In Nevada courts, it is a voluntary dismissal of all charges or part of the charges by the prosecution. This is also referred to as dismissed or “nolle pros” charges.
The prosecutor or plaintiff must submit a formal legal notice or record entry in a criminal or civil suit after charges are presented, but before a verdict is reached or a plea is entered. This means the case will be indefinitely adjourned, which is different than an acquittal.
Some states have complex rules for nolle prosequi, but in Nevada, it simply means a case was dismissed.
Is Nolle Prosequi a Good Thing?
Essentially, yes! A dismissal of charges means that the prosecution is unable to prove without a doubt that you are guilty of a crime. The decision results in an abandonment of the case, and you will not be convicted (found guilty) or sentenced (jail, prison, fine, etc.).
Can I Expunge Charges Dismissed by Nolle Prosequi?
Yes, you can, depending on where you live. In Nevada, charges cannot be expunged, but you can seal your criminal record history. This means that your criminal history, including the nolle prosequi ruling, will be hidden from most of the public.
Prosecutions terminated with a nolle prosequi will show up on background checks unless they are expunged or your record is sealed. If this occurs, the charge will be removed from your record, and only certain government agencies (like the FBI or gaming agencies) will be able to see the charge.
What’s the Difference Between Nolle Prosequi and an Acquittal?
Nolle prosequi is not an acquittal of a case. Nolle prosequi means that matters are left as if charges were never filed, whereas an acquittal prevents any more proceedings against the defendant for the original charges.
An acquittal is an official ruling that the defendant is not guilty of a crime they committed. In nolle prosequi, the defendant can still be found guilty of other pending charges. The prosecution can also later recharge for the same crime or renew the case with new charges. However, this is not always practical.
For example, if a piece of evidence was suppressed, it can no longer be brought up in court, which makes it hard to start over again. In other cases, it may be useful, such as when a key witness who was previously out of the country returns. Once they return, prosecution may be viable again after a nolle prosequi.
What Are the Consequences of Nolle Prosequi?
Since a verdict of either guilty or not guilty has not been reached, it is still possible for the prosecution to try the case at a future date. If a judge is not able to declare you are not guilty, there is always the possibility that you can be found guilty going forward.
Due to the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment, a criminal defendant cannot be tried for the same offense twice. If a court rules that someone is not guilty, they cannot be found guilty later. However, you may still be charged for the same offense if your case was dismissed the first time – because you were never tried, the double jeopardy clause does not apply.
Why Would Charges Be Dismissed?
A prosecutor might dismiss or nolle pros charges for many reasons, such as:
- Lack of evidence
- New evidence has been brought forth
- Suppression of evidence (for example, if it was obtained illegally or through a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights)
- Witnesses failed to cooperate, or there was a lack of willing witnesses
- A willingness to give the defendant a second chance
- The defendant completes a pretrial diversion program or misdemeanor intervention program (drug education, traffic school, domestic violence intervention programs, etc.) before trial and sentencing.
Why Would My Lawyer Agree to a Nolle Prosequi of a Charge?
Your lawyer may agree to or motion for a nolle prosequi of certain charges in exchange for a guilty plea on a primary charge. Depending on your circumstances, this may help you avoid conviction for a more serious crime that comes with a harsher sentence.
A prosecutor may ask for a nolle prosequi of a case to help determine the timing of a trial or negotiate an outcome with the defense. They may also do this to delay a case, which would give the prosecutor more time to gather evidence or locate critical witnesses.
Can I Sue if My Case Is Dismissed?
In some cases, a defendant can sue for malicious prosecution or abuse of process if they feel they were wrongfully prosecuted for a crime, or the process was grievously mishandled. For example:
- The prosecution harassed you
- The purpose of the case was to ruin your reputation
- There is no basis in fact for your prosecution
- There was an ulterior motive in using the prosecution process
- Legal proceedings were not conducted legally or ethically
I Received a Nolle Prosequi. How Should I Answer Questions on Job or School Applications?
Without a sealed record or expungement of the nolle prosequi, there is a possibility your record will be questioned when filling out applications. These applications will usually ask something like, “Have you ever been convicted or pled guilty to a misdemeanor or felony?” Because you were not convicted, you can answer “no.”
This does not mean that the dismissal for the offense will not show up on background checks, nor does it mean that it will disappear from court records. You can be honest with the interviewer and explain your history if they ask, but you are legally allowed to say you were not found guilty of a crime. If you want to erase or hide a nolle prosequi decision completely from public record, you will need to petition to have your criminal history record expunged.
Will I Be Able to Apply for Jobs with a Nolle Prosequi Case on My Record?
Because the underlying prosecution was terminated and you were not found guilty, it is unlikely that a nolle prosequi case will prevent you from applying to jobs. Usually, employers will only have an issue if you have been found guilty of gross misdemeanors or felonies. In nolle prosequi cases, this did not occur.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Las Vegas
If you are charged with a crime, your two most desired outcomes will be an acquittal or a dismissal of the charges. To fully understand your legal options, consider talking with a Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with De Castroverde Law Group can represent you at any court hearings, gather evidence, and work to get the best possible outcome for your case.
To learn more, visit our downtown Las Vegas location or fill out our contact form to connect with a lawyer for a free consultation. We are here to help however we can.