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What does “nolle prosequi” mean?

The issue of expungement of a criminal record often creates a great deal of confusion amongst people in Roanoke. The common thought may be that expungement is the eliminating of a record of your criminal conviction, yet Virginia’s laws only allow that privilege in a few select cases. Rather, expungement is typically available in those cases where criminal charges were not fully pursued. Indeed, Section 19.2-392.2 of the Code of Virginia lists cases where “nolle prosequi” is invoked as being among the scenarios where expungement is possible. 

What does “nolle prosequi” mean? It is a Latin term that means “will no longer prosecute.” It essentially equates to a prosecuting attorney choosing to no longer pursue a criminal case against you. The more common reasons to dismiss a case against you include: 

  • The emergence of new evidence in your case
  • A re-evaluation of the current evidence against you
  • A failure on the part of the prosecution to produce witnesses to testify against you

There may also be times when there is sufficient evidence to secure a conviction, yet the circumstances of your case may prompt authorities to provide you with a second chance. 

It is important to draw a distinction between having a case dismissed and being acquitted. When you are acquitted, you are prosecuted and found to be not guilty. In such a case, the state cannot retry you on the same charge. When a case is dismissed, the state can choose to reopen its prosecution in the future (unless the case is dismissed with prejudice). 

You might question the need to have your public record expunged if the charges against you are dismissed. An expungement in this case would eliminate any trace of your potential involvement in criminal activity (including the record of your arrest).