When you hear the words “acquitted” and “not guilty,” what comes to mind? For most people, they are synonymous with one another – but there is a big difference between the two. In this blog post, we will discuss the differences between these two terms and what they mean for those who are accused of a crime.
While “not guilty” and “acquitted” are often used interchangeably, there is a big difference between the two terms. An acquittal means that the prosecution did not meet its burden of proof, while a not guilty verdict simply means that the jury had reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt. In either case, the defendant is free to go.
What is an Acquital?: Meaning of “acquitted”
An acquittal is a finding of not guilty. It is a formal declaration that someone accused of a crime is free from all charges.
An acquittal occurs when the prosecution fails to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. This may be because there was insufficient evidence, or because the jury did not believe that the prosecution had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
What is the Meaning of “not guilty”?
A finding of not guilty does not necessarily mean that the person charged with the crime did not commit it. It simply means that, based on the evidence presented at trial, the jury could not find enough proof beyond a reasonable doubt to convict him or her of the charge.
There are two types of verdicts in criminal cases: guilty and not guilty.
A guilty verdict means that the defendant has been convicted of the crime and will be subject to punishment.
A not guilty verdict, on the other hand, results in an acquittal and means that the defendant is free from all charges.
Differences Between “Acquitted” and “Not Guilty”
While both acquittals and not guilty verdicts result in the freedom of the defendant, there are some key differences between the two.
An acquittal is a finding by the court that the defendant is not guilty, while a not guilty verdict is a finding by the jury that they cannot find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
An acquittal can only be granted by a judge, while a not guilty verdict can only be returned by a jury.
Acquittals are rarer than not guilty verdicts because they require the judge to find that there is no evidence to support a conviction, whereas a not guilty verdict only requires the jury to have doubts about the prosecution’s case.
Finally, an acquittal is final and cannot be appealed, while a not guilty verdict can be.
Similarities Between “Acquitted” and “Not Guilty”
While there are some key differences between acquittals and not guilty verdicts, there are also some similarities.
Both acquittals and not guilty verdicts result in the defendant being freed from all charges.
In both cases, the prosecution has failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
And in both cases, the jury or judge has found that there is insufficient evidence to convict the defendant of the crime.
While there are some key differences between acquittals and not guilty verdicts, at the end of the day, they both result in the same thing: the defendant goes free.
In some cases, a judge may grant a partial acquittal. This means that the judge finds the defendant not guilty of some, but not all, of the charges against him or her.
For example, if a defendant is charged with both burglary and theft, and the judge grants a partial acquittal on the burglary charge, the defendant will still be tried on the theft charge.
A partial acquittal is different from a not guilty verdict in that it is only given in response to specific charges, whereas a not guilty verdict applies to all charges.
A partial acquittal can also be appealed by either side, whereas a not guilty verdict cannot.
Possible Outcomes of Criminal Proceedings
The charges are dismissed before the case goes to trial. This can happen for a number of reasons, such as the prosecution decides there is not enough evidence to move forward or the defendant has already served their punishment through a pre-trial diversion program or there was a procedural irregularity in the eyes of the court that taints the entire case.
An acquittal happens when the jury (or judge if it’s a bench trial) finds the defendant not guilty of the charges. Once an individual is acquitted, they cannot be tried again for those same charges.
A finding of not guilty is different than an acquittal in that it does not necessarily mean that the jury believed the defendant’s innocence; rather, they may have simply had reasonable doubt about guilt which led to the not guilty verdict.
Standard of Proof in Criminal Cases: Beyond Reasonable Doubt:
In order for a defendant to be convicted of a crime, the prosecution must prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest burden of proof in our legal system and it exists to protect the innocent from being wrongfully convicted.
When jury instructions are given at the end of a criminal trial, they will often include language about what beyond a reasonable doubt means. Generally, it is defined as an “abiding conviction” or “moral certainty” that the defendant committed the crime.
The standard of proof for an acquittal is lower than for a conviction; jurors may find a defendant not guilty if they have any reasonable doubts about their guilt.
However, even if there is some evidence of guilt, if the jury feels that the prosecution has not met the high burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, they must acquit.
Who Bears The Burden of Proof in Criminal Matters?
In a criminal case, the burden of proof is always on the prosecution.
This means that it is their responsibility to provide evidence and convincing arguments to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The defense does not have any burden of proof; their job is simply to point out holes in the prosecution’s case or offer an alternative explanation for the events in question.
If the jury has any reasonable doubts about the guilt of the defendant, they must acquit.
However, if the jury is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty, they will return a verdict of guilty.
Jurisprudence on “Acquitted” vs “Not Guilty”:
The People vs O.J Simpson, “if they Don’t fit, Acquit”
In 1995, O.J Simpson was tried for murder and famously argued that the gloves found at the crime scene did not fit him. His attorney, Johnnie Cochran, famously said “if they don’t fit, you must acquit.”
Simpson was ultimately acquitted of the murder charges, but many people believe that he was guilty. In fact, a civil jury later found Simpson liable for the deaths and ordered him to pay $33. million to the families of the victims.
While Simpson was acquitted of the criminal charges, the civil jury’s decision shows that even if someone is found not guilty in a criminal trial, they can still be held liable in a civil case.
This is because the standard of proof is lower in civil cases; jurors only need to find that it is more likely than not that the defendant is liable.
So, even though Simpson was acquitted of the criminal charges, the civil jury still found him liable for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
A “hang jury” occurs when the jury is unable to reach a unanimous verdict. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but usually it is because there is not enough evidence to convict the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt.
In these cases, the judge will declare a mistrial and the defendant will be tried again at a later date.
It is important to note that a hung jury is different from an acquittal; an acquittal means that the defendant has been found not guilty and cannot be tried again for the same crime.
A mistrial simply means that the jury was unable to reach a verdict and the case will be tried again at a later date.
Can You be Tried Twice for the Same Crime? The Double Jeopardy Principle
The double jeopardy principle is a constitutional guarantee that protects individuals from being tried twice for the same crime. This protection applies to both federal and state crimes. The double jeopardy clause is found in the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This clause states, “No person shall…be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.”
The Double Jeopardy Principle has Three Components:
- Individuals cannot be tried twice for the same crime
- Individuals cannot be convicted and sentenced for the same crime
- Individuals cannot be punished more than once for the same crime
This protection applies even if an individual is acquitted of a crime. Once an individual is acquitted, the government cannot try that person again.
The double jeopardy principle also applies to individuals who are convicted of a crime. Once an individual is convicted, they cannot be tried or sentenced again for that same crime. This protection prevents the government from punishing individuals multiple times for the same offense.
When Does Double Jeopardy Apply?
The double jeopardy principle applies in both criminal and civil cases.
In a criminal case, an individual can be tried for the same crime in multiple jurisdictions. However, they cannot be tried twice for the same crime in the same jurisdiction.
For example, if an individual is acquitted of a crime in state court, they cannot be tried again for that same crime in federal court. However, if an individual is charged with a crime in multiple states, they can be tried for that crime in each state.
The double jeopardy principle also applies in civil cases. An individual who is sued for the same issue in multiple courts cannot be tried or punished twice for that issue.
Exceptions to the Double Jeopardy Principle
There are a few exceptions to the double jeopardy principle. These exceptions include:
- The “separate sovereigns” doctrine. This doctrine allows for individuals to be tried twice for the same crime if they have committed a federal and state offense.
- Another exception is when an individual has their conviction reversed on appeal. In this case, the individual can be retried for the crime.
- If new evidence is discovered after the acquittal.
- If the person was acquitted due to a mistrial.
- If the person violates the terms of their probation.
What is the Importance of the Double Jeopardy Principle?
The double jeopardy principle is important because it protects citizens from being tried multiple times for the same crime. This principle ensures that citizens have a fair trial and that they are not subjected to repeated trials until they are found guilty. The double jeopardy principle is one of the key protections in the criminal justice system.
The Double Jeopardy Principal and Acquittals and “Not Guilty” Verdicts
The double jeopardy principle is an important one, as it protects citizens from being tried twice for the same crime. However, it is important to note that this principle only applies to acquittals – not “not guilty” verdicts. This means that if a person is found not guilty of a crime, they can be tried again for that same crime.
This is because a “not guilty” verdict does not necessarily mean that the person is innocent – it simply means that there was not enough evidence to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In some cases, new evidence may be discovered after a person is found not guilty. In other cases, the prosecution may have made mistakes during the trial that resulted in the not guilty verdict.
Either way, the double jeopardy principle does not apply to not guilty verdicts, which means that a person can be tried again for the same crime if new evidence is discovered or if the prosecution believes they can prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Tie Breaker
The main difference between “acquitted” and “not guilty” is that an acquittal means the charges against you have been dismissed, while a not guilty verdict simply means the jury could not find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. An acquittal can happen for a number of reasons, such as if the prosecution does not have enough evidence to prove your guilt or if the judge believes there was some sort of legal error made during the trial. A not guilty verdict, on the other hand, just means that the jury wasn’t convinced of your guilt – it doesn’t mean that you are innocent.
So, what does this all mean for those who are accused of a crime? If you are acquitted, it means you are free and clear and the charges against you have been dropped. If you are found not guilty, it just means that the jury couldn’t find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt – but this doesn’t mean that you are innocent.