An entry made on the record, by which the prosecutor or plaintiff declares that he will proceed no further. A nolle prosequi may be entered either in a criminal or a civil case. In criminal cases, a nolle prosequi may be entered at any time before the finding of the grand jury, by the attorney general, and generally after a true bill has been found; in Pennsylvania, in consequence of a statutory provision, no nolle prosequi can be entered after a bill has been found, without leave of the court, except in cases of assault and battery, fornication and bastardy, on agreement between the parties, or in prosecutions for keeping tippling houses.
A nolle prosequi may be entered as to one or several defendants. The effect of a nolle prosequi, when obtained, is to put the defendant without day, but it does not operate as an acquittal; for he may be afterwards reindicted, and even upon the same indictment, fresh process may be awarded.
In civil cases, a nolle prosequi is considered, not to be of the nature of a retraxit or release, as was formerly supposed, but an agreement only, not to proceed either against some of the defendants, or as to part of the suit. A nolle prosequi is now held to be no bar to a future action for the same cause, except in those cases where, from the nature of the action, judgment and execution against one, is a satisfaction of all the damages sustained by the plaintiff.
In civil cases, a nolle prosequi may be entered as to one of several counts or to one of several defendants as in the case of a joint contract, where one of two defendants pleads infancy, the plaintiff may enter a nolle prosequi as to him and proceed against the other.