It’s a term we hear all the time on television, usually emitted from a somber-sounding judge who gives one final bang of his gavel.
Yet in other instances, courts use another term: acquitted.
Acquitted versus not guilty: what’s the difference?
Today, you’ll find out.
Not Guilty Verdict
It’s important to note that courts never prove someone is completely innocent. Instead, a “not guilty” ruling means the jury or judge had doubts that the defendant is guilty.
Proficient attorneys anticipate the prosecution’s strongest evidence and dispute it.
This process provides the fairest way of conviction; if the jury or judge isn’t convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual is guilty, they give a not guilty verdict.
Even though courts can’t give verdicts proclaiming a defendant is innocent, a not guilty verdict is unable to be brought to court again.
In the eyes of the US judicial system, then, this verdict demonstrates innocence.
An acquittal verdict also means the defendant is found not guilty. They are “acquitted” of the charges against them.
Acquittals are also eligible for expunction, or completely removing a charge from a person’s record.
Even if someone presents new evidence concerning the case in the future, the individual won’t experience punitive measures.
In legal terms, the individual is free from double jeopardy.
In trials, lawyers file motions for acquittals after both sides present their cases.
Sometimes, defendants request an acquittal directly from the judge. This usually occurs in cases of bias, where a jury might not fairly hear the case.
In these instances, the judge gives the ruling.
How Acquittals Occur
Like not-guilty rulings, judges or juries provide the verdict. There are a number of ways an acquittal occurs.
The first is through a not-guilty verdict, which acts as an acquittal.
The second way is through insufficient evidence. After the prosecution presents, a judge determines there is not enough evidence to contemplate a crime. In this case, he or she may acquit the defendant.
Finally, acquittals also occur through jury nullifications. If a jury disagrees with a law, as was the case for many bootleggers during Prohibition, they may acquit the defendant.
However, acquittals are somewhat different than not guilty verdicts.
Now we get to the heart of the matter: acquitted versus not guilty verdicts.
Unlike findings of not guilty, acquittals can be partial. Partial acquittals occur when the jury or judge finds the defendant innocent of some, but not all, charges.
Furthermore, an appeal is possible. Although the law protects individuals against double jeopardy, some states have laws that allow appeals in specific situations.
One Texas law, for instance, allows appeals if the acquittal occurred in a court beyond the offense’s jurisdiction.
Acquitted Versus Not Guilty
Being acquitted versus not guilty is very similar, but it’s important to understand the small distinctions.
Since the legal world is full of distinctions like these, it’s always best to have a professional at your side.
At The Law Office of Roland J. Garcia, we provide aggressive and reliable criminal law representation. Contact us today to get one step closer to a not-guilty verdict and to get acquitted.