Dead Docket and Nolle Prosequi
Prosecutors may terminate or postpone criminal cases in two important, yet widely misunderstood, ways. If the prosecutor wants the case to be postponed indefinitely, she may ask the judge to transfer the case to the dead docket. The judge may or may not agree to transfer the case to the dead docket. The clerk of superior court maintains the dead docket.
Here are answers to some of the most common questions about the dead docket.
1. Is the dead docket the same as a dismissal?
No. Placing a case on the dead docket does NOT constitute a dismissal of the case. While the dead docket postpones the prosecution indefinitely, the dead docket does not terminate the case in the defendant’s favor.
2. Once the case is transferred to the dead docket, what will appear on my criminal record?
Because the case remains pending, the charges will appear as before. It is a good idea to obtain a copy of your criminal record to verify that the information is correct.
3. How long does the case stay on the dead docket?
Once the case is placed on the dead docket, it remains there indefinitely.
4. Once my case is on the dead docket, can the judge call the case for trial?
Yes. The judge can call the case for trial at her pleasure.
5. How can I get my case taken off of the dead docket and dismissed?
A defendant may ask the judge to remove the case from the dead docket and dismiss it. The judge may or may not grant the request.
6. What if my case is on the dead docket, but I want a trial?
Even if a case is on the dead docket, the defendant can make a demand for trial.
7. Does my case have to be reinstated before I am tried?
8. Do I have to be re-indicted before I am tried?
9. Can the State appeal a dead docket?
No. Because a court-ordered dead docket is not a dismissal, the state cannot appeal it.
A prosecutor has the authority to enter a nolle prosequi, sometimes called a “nol pros,” which terminates the prosecution. The term nolle prosequi means a “formal entry upon the record by the prosecuting officer in a criminal action by which he declares that he will no further prosecute the case, either as to some of the counts, or some of the defendants or altogether.” See Williams v. State, 244 Ga. 485 (1979).
“The entry of the nolle prosequi render[s] the charge dead.” State v. Sheahan, 217 Ga. App. 26 (1995).
Here are answers to some common questions about nolle prosequi:
1. Is a nolle prosequi the same as a dismissal?
No. A nolle prosequi terminates the prosecution, but the prosecutor may re-indict or file another accusation for the same offense within six months from the entry of the nolle prosequi or within the statute of limitations for the particular offense.
2. Once the nolle prosequi has been entered, what will appear on my criminal record?
The disposition will show “nolle prosequi.” If the case qualifies for record restriction, the criminal record may not show any information for the charge or disposition.