(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 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 case or the district attorney has become convinced the accused is innocent.
Love hearing “nolle” for our clients. Sometimes a nolle is based upon the prosecutor recognizing the flaws in their own case but most often nolles are the product of the defense lawyer. Not that a defense lawyer can issue a nolle, but the prosecutor usually has only one version of facts: those from the police. And, as you know, there are always at least two sides to every story.
Law enforcement can often focus on facts and circumstances which support their belief in a criminal charge. Sure, they may “interview” the suspect but that interview is geared toward obtaining an admission. Most officers are leery of anything and everything a “suspect” has to say.
Defense lawyers, charged with a duty to investigate the facts, will study the prosecutor’s evidence (and in turn evidence supplied by the police) and then compare it with the client’s version of facts. This is where a client is best served in being truthful with his or her lawyer. A defense based on lies will surely fall like a house of cards when its presented in trial and subject to examination.
It is often the defense lawyer’s investigation that reveals (1) flaws in the prosecutor’s case, (2) other versions of facts, (3) additional evidence that was before unknown, and (4) the innocence of the accused. In the appropriate circumstances, the defense lawyer can share his or her investigation, or parts of it, with the prosecutor so that the prosecutor will issue the nolle prosequi.