Nolle Prosequi (Lat., to be unwilling to prosecute), a law term derived, as most law terms are, from those ancient days when all law proceedings and records were in Latin. It meant that the plaintiff declared in court and entered upon the record that he would no longer prosecute his suit. In civil cases, this is superseded in modern times by a nonsuit; but when a plaintiff enters a nonsuit, especially if he does this by order of court, he is still sometimes said to be "nol pros'd." Nolle prosequi is very common in criminal cases. It is entered by the officer who acts for the government, when, from insufficiency of evidence or for other reasons, he is unwilling to press the trial any further. He may do this, generally, at any stage of the proceedings. But it puts the defendant, or accused party, to this disadvantage: if he has a verdict in his favor, he cannot be tried again for that offence; but if nolle prosequi is entered, he may be indicted and tried again at any time for the same offence. He would prefer therefore a verdict in his favor; but this he ought not to have, if he would escape now by a merely accidental absence of testimony.
On the contrary, if it be obvious that ho could be fairly tried now, and would probably be acquitted, it would not be just to permit the government to hold this power of accusation and trial over him indefinitely. In some of the states there are statutes, or rules of court, intended to meet this difficulty; and practical mischief seldom arises from it, as a nolle prosequi would not be entered by government against the wishes of a 'defendant, without unquestionable reasons.