Nolle Prosequi Explained for Maryland Criminal Cases

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Nolle prosequi is one of the most desirable outcomes in a criminal case as it means the State or Government has chosen not to proceed with criminal charges. Keep reading to learn more about nolle prosequi and how it can affect a criminal case.

What Does Nolle Prosequi Mean?

Nolle Prosequi is a legal term and in Latin means, “do not prosecute.” It is often referred to as a nol pros.  If you have been charged with a crime or traffic offense and the State’s Attorney decides they will not proceed with your case, they enter a Nolle Prosequi.  This means your case is dismissed and the State has chosen to not proceed with the charges.

Though you are likely thanking your lucky stars that you were not convicted, you may still have questions lingering. Or you may be wondering how does one get an outcome of nolle prosequi.

If you have any questions, contact an experienced Maryland attorney to help walk you through the process of nolle prosequi.

age 16841 1920 300x200 - Nolle Prosequi Explained for Maryland Criminal CasesHISTORY OF NOLLE PROSEQUI IN CRIMINAL LAW

Like most American criminal law, it is based on British common law. In Britain, the power of nolle prosequi is given exclusively to the Attorney General. In the United States, the power to enter the decision of a nolle prosequi lays with the head prosecutor in each state, whether it be an Attorney General, County Attorney or District Attorney.

In Maryland, the state employs State’s Attorneys to prosecute cases, who will be deciding when to enter a decision of nolle prosequi.

The Maryland Rules provide for disposition of charges by a nolle prosequi as follows: The State’s Attorney may terminate a prosecution on a charge and dismiss the charge by entering a nolle prosequi on the record in open court. A statement of the reasons for entering a nolle prosequi shall be made a part of the record.

When a nolle prosequi has been entered on a charge, any conditions of pretrial release on that charge are terminated, any bail bond posted for the defendant on that charge shall be released.

The clerk shall take the action necessary to recall or revoke any outstanding warrant or detainer that could lead to the arrest or detention of the defendant because of that charge.

When a nolle prosequi is entered and all of the above happens you may feel as if you have just won and there will be no consequences. You may have won the battle, but you did not win the war. When a nolle prosequi is entered, that does not mean your record is clean again.

So, if you have been charged of a crime in Maryland, you need to talk to a Maryland criminal attorney who can help walk you through the process and explain the consequences of a nolle prosequi.


This discretion to not prosecute is not used very often, but it does occur under the right circumstances. These circumstances could include running of the statute of limitations, duplicate charges, lack of availability of witnesses to testify and accepting a plea of guilty to a lesser offense.

Often times a nolle prosequi occurs after an indictment has occurred, but before the end of a trial. This means that double jeopardy does not occur if the charges are re-filed against a person later.

Thus, when a nol pros is entered charges can be refiled, meaning the person is not in the clear once the prosecutor has made his or her decision.

If you would like to talk about what steps to take after being charged or receiving a nol pros, call the Rice, Murtha & Psoras to schedule a free consultation.


If your case is Nolle Prosequi (NP) in Maryland, that means the State’s Attorney’s office will not prosecute your case and you are no longer charged with the original offenses.  You have to be careful when you see the words nolle prosequi on the Maryland Case Search.

If you are charged with a felony and misdemeanor, the State may NP the felony charge but still proceed with the misdemeanor charges.

The State may also nol pros their charges if there is also a simultaneous federal case that is being brought against you.

Therefore, if you see nolle prosequi, it does not mean that you walked out of court with no charges, it just may mean that the State decided not to pursue some charges.

If you have lingering questions about what is next for you, call the experienced attorneys at the Rice, Murtha & Psoras who will help explain to you what to expect next.


Yes, with some restrictions.  If you have other charges pending, then you would not be eligible to expunge the Nolle Prosequi until those charges have been resolved. Also, all other charges in the case must be eligible for expungement.

Under Maryland law, there is also a statute that allows for expungement before service. Maryland Criminal Procedure §10-104 provides:

(a)  In general. —  Unless the State objects and shows cause why a record should not be expunged, if the State enters a nolle prosequi as to all charges in a criminal case within the jurisdiction of the District Court with which a defendant has not been served, the District Court may order expungement of each court record, police record, or other record that the State or a political subdivision of the State keeps as to the charges.

(b)  Costs. —  The District Court may not assess any costs against a defendant for a proceeding under subsection (a) of this section.


Maryland Rule 4-247 defines a Nolle Prosequi and states:

“(a) Disposition by nolle prosequi. The State’s Attorney may terminate a prosecution on a charge and dismiss the charge by entering a nolle prosequi on the record in open court. The defendant need not be present in court when the nolle prosequi is entered, but if neither the defendant nor the defendant’s attorney is present, the clerk shall send notice to the defendant, if the defendant’s whereabouts are known, and to the defendant’s attorney of record. Notice shall not be sent if either the defendant or the defendant’s attorney was present in court when the nolle prosequi was entered. If notice is required, the clerk may send one notice that lists all of the charges that were dismissed.

(b) Effect of nolle prosequi. When a nolle prosequi has been entered on a charge, any conditions of pretrial release on that charge are terminated, and any bail bond posted for the defendant on that charge shall be released. The clerk shall take the action necessary to recall or revoke any outstanding warrant or detainer that could lead to the arrest or detention of the defendant because of that charge.”


Maryland law, like most other states, has ruled that the nolle prosequi is within the sole discretion of the prosecuting attorney. This means that the judges cannot make the decision on whether to enter a nolle prosequi. However, this does not give the prosecutor free range.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in Hook v. State, that “when the defendant is plainly guilty of some offense, and the evidence is legally sufficient for the trier of fact to convict him of either the greater offense or a lesser included offense, it is fundamentally unfair under Maryland common law for the State, over the defendant’s objection, to nol pros the lesser included offense.”

This means that if there is a lesser offense that has sufficient evidence to go to a judge or jury for trial and the defendant wishes to do so, then entering a nol pros on the lesser offense and taking the more serious charges to court goes against all principles of fairness.

Overall, the idea of a nolle prosequi is to provide fairness to the defendant when there is a lack of evidence to pursue the charges.

You may be wondering, can a nolle prosequi be entered for all charges or does it only apply to one charge? The courts in Maryland have upheld that a nol pros can be entered as to the entire charging document, one or more counts, and even part of a count.

This means that even if you get a nol pros, you may still be going to court for other charges. Nolle prosequi can become convoluted and have many details that are hard to understand. To further discuss how a nolle prosequi works, contact an experienced Baltimore criminal defense lawyer.


Nolle Prosequi is only one outcome of being charged with a crime. And it is a rare outcome at that. So, what are some other outcomes of being charged?

Guilty and not guilty are outcomes that often occur at the end of a trial. Guilty can also be entered upon a plea deal. Before pleading guilty or going to court to claim not guilty, you should talk to a lawyer who will help you through the process.

A probation before judgment (PBJ) occurs when a defendant pleads guilty, but the court stays the punishment and places the defendant on probation with conditions.

Unfortunately, Maryland only offers PBJ’s for defendants who have been convicted of a drunk driving offense, which means it does not apply to all criminal charges like nolle prosequi does.

A stet simply means that the Maryland State’s Attorney Office has placed your case as inactive. Similar to a nolle prosequi, when receiving a stet your case has been chosen to not be prosecuted.

With a stet, the case can be reopened at any time during the first year and on a showing of good cause for the subsequent two years.

With so many outcomes that are possible, do not try to face your charges alone. Call the Rice, Murtha & Psoras for a free consultation.


Speak with attorney Randolph Rice as soon after you’ve been charged with a crime.  Often time, we can talk to the State and work a deal where the State does not prosecute your case.  Contact the office at (410) 694-7291 or email the office for immediate legal help.

Attorney Randolph Rice is a Maryland criminal lawyer and traffic defense attorney.  He was an Assistant State’s Attorney from 2006 until 2009 and since 2009 has defended individuals charged with criminal and traffic offenses in Maryland.  Are you looking for legal representation in Maryland, call the office today.


Will I have a criminal record if my case was nol pros?

Unless you have the case sealed or expunged then the arrest will still show up on your record. However, there will not a conviction, it is a dismissal of the charges.

How Do You Pronounce Nol Pros?

If you appear in court, you will often hear the term nol pros, however, it is pronounced “nul pros” by prosecutors, judges and attorneys.

Can a nolle prosequi case be reopened?

Technically, yes, the case can be reopened, recharged, and tried. However, that is extremely unlikely.

Is a nolle prosequi the same in every state?

The simple answer is no. Maryland has its own statutes and case law interpreting the application of nolle prosequi. If you are moving to Maryland from another state and wondering how your out of state nolle prosequi will affect you or if you are from out of state and facing charges in Maryland, you should speak to a skilled Maryland criminal lawyer.

Does nolle prosequi show up on background checks?

Even though charges were dropped, you will still have an arrest record that will be available for future employers to see. This means that you have to file for an expungement to get it completely off your record and therefore not viewable for employers doing background checks.

How many cases are affected by a nolle prosequi?

Though the State does not keep records of the exact number of cases that were nolle prosequi, the number is low. As set out below, there are standards that the State’s Attorney was meet in order to file for a nol pros. Thus, only cases that do not have enough evidence do not move forward to trial.

Does Nolle Prosequi Mean Not Guilty?

No, nolle prosequi does not mean not guilty. Nolle prosequi means that the State choose to no prosecute the case. For a not guilty, a judge or jury would have to find you not guilty, this would only happen after a trial. Since there is no trial when a nolle prosequi is requested by the State, there is no trial and thus no finding of guilty or innocence.


If you still have questions about how a nolle prosequi will affect you, contact an experienced Maryland criminal lawyer immediately. At the Rice, Murtha & Psoras, we have the experience it takes to be well versed in nolle prosequi cases. Contact our offices to schedule an appointment for a free consultation.


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