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What is an Acquittal?

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What is an Acquittal?

In a criminal case, an acquittal may be granted by a judge under certain circumstances.  Basically, an acquittal means that the accused person becomes free from the charges that were brought against them.  They will not face any criminal consequences, even if new evidence arises that might further incriminate the person. 

An acquittal may be granted according to the verdict of a jury, or by the operation of some criminal procedure rules that discharge the defendant.  A defendant who has been granted an acquittal is said to be “acquitted” from the charges, and is not guilty of the charges. 

When is an Acquittal Granted?

An acquittal is most commonly granted when it’s clear that there is not enough evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt, as there is a presumption that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty.  It can also be granted if it is clear (beyond a reasonable doubt) that the defendant is not guilty.  A motion for an acquittal may be filed during a criminal trial after both sides have presented their arguments.  In some cases, the motion may be filed before the prosecution is done presenting their side, but this is rarely done in practice.

An acquittal can also serve to remove the trial from the decision of a jury and transfer it into the hands of a judge.  While defendants generally have the right to a jury trial, they can opt to file a motion for acquittal and have a judge decide it.  This may be done for instance if there is a possibility that the jury is biased.

What Happens After an Acquittal?

One of the main aspects of an acquittal is that once it has been granted, the person can no longer be prosecuted or tried for those same charges.  This is due to “double jeopardy” laws, which prohibit a person from being tried twice for the same crime.  Thus, the case can’t be appealed, even if new evidence turns up. 

However, an appeal can sometimes be granted under specific circumstances if the acquittal was granted after the jury already reached a verdict of “guilty”, which happens sometimes. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help Getting a Criminal Charge Acquittal?

Acquittal is not available in all cases, and filing a motion for an acquittal can be a major decision.  You may need to hire your own criminal defense attorney if you need assistance with procedural aspects of trial such as a motion for acquittal. 

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 09-08-2015 12:20 PM PDT

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