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Disposition of a Criminal Case

Acquittal (Not Guilty)

This is the disposition of a case in which a jury (or the judge in a bench trial) decides that the State has not met it’s burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The case is over and may be expunged from the defendant’s record.

Conviction (Guilty)

This is the disposition which occurs when a defendant pleads guilty or when the jury (or the judge in a bench trial) decides the State has proven the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge will impose a sentence. The case may usually be appealed to the next highest court or certain post-judgment motions, such as a motion for a mistrial, may be heard.

Nolle Prosequi (Nol Pros)

An entry of nolle prosequi means the State’s Attorney’s Office has declined to further prosecute a charge. If this is done to all charges in a case, the case is over and may be expunged from the defendant’s record.

Probation Before Judgment (PBJ)

A PBJ means that the court stops before entering a finding of guilt and instead places the defendant on probation, staying further proceedings. If probation is completed, a finding of guilt is never entered, meaning the defendant does not have a criminal conviction on his or her record. A PBJ may be expunged three years after the defendant is placed on probation or after probation ends, whichever is later. Because a finding of guilt is never entered there is no final judgment in a PBJ case, so a PBJ cannot be appealed.


Rather than continue with a case, the court may place it on the inactive, or “stet” docket. This acts as an indefinite postponement of proceedings. Within the first year from the placement of the case on the stet docket, the case may be re-opened at any time. Within three years from the placement on the stet docket, the case may be re-opened only with a showing of good cause to the court. After three years, the case may be expunged. As with a PBJ, a case on the stet docket cannot be appealed because there is no final judgment to appeal.

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