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What Does It Mean When the Prosecution Terminates Your Charges


Judges in criminal court look plenty scary with their black robes, their gavels, and their somber expressions, but so much of the outcome of a criminal case is not up to them.  Yes, they get to decide which evidence is admissible, and they have the final decision about which jurors will get to participate if your case goes to trial.  They hand down the sentences and, depending on the sentencing guidelines, can be the ones to choose whether you spend time behind bars if you are convicted or plead guilty.  Judges do not determine the verdict when a criminal case goes to trial, though.  While they have the authority to dismiss your charges before the case gets to trial, they are not the only ones who can cause your criminal case to end on an anticlimax or, as the case may be, on a cliffhanger.  Prosecutors also have the right to call an end to criminal proceedings.  It’s always great to hear that you are no longer facing criminal charges, but a prosecution-initiated termination of your case is not as definitive an end to your legal troubles as an acquittal.  Here, our Miami criminal defense lawyer explains “no information” and nolle prosequi, two legal actions by which prosecutors can unilaterally terminate a pending criminal case.

“No Information” Is When the Prosecution Drops Your Case Before You Formally Receive Charges

Each state has its own rules about the termination of a criminal case by the prosecution.  In Florida, prosecutors have the right to terminate the case unilaterally at any point between the arrest and the trial.  Once the prosecution has done this, the case is over.  The judge does not have the right to reverse the prosecution’s termination of the case, nor can the judge proceed with the case without the prosecution’s participation.

The prosecution can terminate a criminal case in two different ways.  The first is called filing a “no information.”  In all criminal cases except those that involve a grand jury indictment, the State Attorney’s office files a charging document called an information.  When the prosecution files a no information, it means that the State Attorney’s office has reviewed the arrest report and determined that it has no basis to file criminal charges.  Therefore, it files a no information with the court, and the case ends.  Otherwise, it would file an information, the judge would notify the defendant of the charges, and the defendant would enter a plea.

Nolle Prosequi Is When the Prosecution Drops the Charges After Filing Them

Even if the State Attorney files charges and the defendant enters a plea, the prosecution still has the right to terminate the case.  If it happens after the defendant has entered a plea, then the document the prosecution files to cancel the proceedings is called “nolle prosequi.”  Nolle prosequi is a Latin phrase that means “unwilling to prosecute.”

As for why the prosecution would decide to terminate a case, the short answer is, it doesn’t matter; the prosecution has the right to terminate the case for any reason.  In practice, it is usually either because prosecutors have bigger things to do that pursue this particular case or because they know they have little chance of winning.  The former scenario usually happens with misdemeanor cases.  The state might let you go so they can free up funds to investigate and prosecute felony cases.  Prosecutors don’t want to spend taxpayers’ money persuading jurors that the four tablets in the Pez dispenser in your car were MDMA, not when five pounds of fentanyl just landed at Miami International Airport.  Another reason to file a nolle prosequi is when prosecutors lose access to a strong piece of evidence, such as when a witness recants his or her testimony or the judge declares an important piece of evidence inadmissible at trial.

Your Case May Not Be Completely Over After a No Information or a Nolle Prosequi

Nolle prosequi or no information is a near perfect ending to your cases.  It means that you are no longer facing criminal charges.  Therefore, since you have not been convicted, you cannot receive a sentence or lose your right to vote.  The only downside to a no information or nolle prosequi is that the prosecution can decide to pursue the case again if new evidence emerges.  In other words, “no double jeopardy” only applies if your case goes to trials; you can be charged again for the same crime after a nolle prosequi, although it rarely happens in practice.

Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys

A South Florida criminal defense lawyer can help you resolve your case without going to trial, if possible.  Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo in Miami, Florida for a free, confidential consultation about your case.

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