Acquitted vs. Not Guilty: What’s the Difference?

Being accused of a crime is a stressful and difficult experience. As you are on trial, unsure of what your future holds, you will be hoping that the jury will ultimately come to a verdict other than guilty. When this happens and there is no conviction, you will then be free to live your life.

The jury’s verdict could determine that you are either acquitted or not guilty of your crimes. Even if you are not convicted, a crime could remain on your criminal record depending on the verdict posed by the jury. However, you do have options for expunging charges.

There are a lot of moving parts during and following your criminal defense trial, and keeping up with it can become difficult. No matter what stage of the defense process you are in, our team of Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at the De Castroverde Law Group can inform you of your legal options.

What is the Difference Between Acquitted and Not Guilty?

You may think that these two words mean the same thing, but there is, in fact, a difference. The difference between acquittal and not guilty is minor, yet there is a distinction between the two:


  • Not Guilty If you are found not guilty of a crime, it means that the prosecution did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were guilty of the crime for which you were accused. This verdict does not mean that the jury found you to be innocent of your crime, just that the prosecution was not able to prove guilt.

  • Acquitted When you are acquitted of a crime, it means that you are freed from obligation, burden, or accusation. In this scenario, it was determined by the jury or the judge overseeing your trial that you were not responsible for the charges brought against you. Similar to the definition of not guilty, an acquittal occurs when the prosecution did not prove that you were guilty.

If you are acquitted, then double jeopardy will attach. Double jeopardy ensures that you will not be prosecuted, convicted, or punished for the same offense for which you were acquitted. This does not mean that you cannot be charged with the same crime in a different instance, it just means that you cannot be charged with the exact same scenario that was just resolved.

How Will Your Criminal Record Be Affected?

Neither an acquittal nor a verdict of not guilty is the same as charges being dismissed or charges being dropped. When charges are dismissed, the defendant does not have to stand trial since there is either not enough evidence to support a case moving forward or it is determined that mistakes were made by the prosecution before the trial began.

If you stand trial and you are acquitted or found not guilty, this does not mean that the jury has found you innocent. Because of this, your arrest will remain on your permanent record, and there is a chance that the charges brought against you remain as well, even if there was no conviction. The good news is that you have options for having the arrest and charges removed from your record.

Sealing Your Record and Expunging Charges

In order to have your record cleared of any arrest or charges that took place, you must have the charges expunged from your record. Expungement erases the arrest from ever taking place. NRS 179.255 defines all the parameters that must be met in different circumstances for your record to be sealed or expunged.

In some instances, you may not be able to have your record expunged, but you could have it sealed. Sealing your record is different from expunging charges in that sealing a record does not completely remove the charges. Rather than destroying the charges like with an expungement, the charges remain on the record, but they are now confidential and cannot be viewed except in very specific circumstances.

After your trial has resulted in an acquittal or not guilty verdict, you will continue to work with your defense attorney to have the charges and arrest expunged. If you do not do this, then anyone who looks up your criminal record will still see that you were arrested and will have the right to ask you about it. If your record is expunged or sealed, then you have the right to deny that you have been arrested for any crime, as long as there were no other arrests on your record.

In the event that you were convicted of a crime, there is still the chance for you to expunge or seal your records. In some very rare instances, you will not be allowed to lawfully deny the arrest to certain agencies. Your attorney will be able to guide you through expungement or sealing of records in order to ensure that you are following the law when asked about your arrest history.

Do not hesitate to have your record expunged following your trial, it is very important to do so after a not guilty verdict is reached. Failing to do so could prevent you from being hired for a job, living in a particular community, or being granted other rights.

Discover the Benefits of Working with a Criminal Defense Attorney

Standing trial for a crime is an uncomfortable position for anyone to be in. When you are found to be not guilty or are acquitted of the charges, you will want to do everything you can to get your life back in order as quickly as possible.

De Castroverde Criminal & Immigration Lawyers can work with you through every step of the process. When you are acquitted or found to be not guilty in a court of law, we can explain to you what this means for your future. We want to make sure that you have all the information you need as it relates to clearing your permanent record.

As your defense attorneys, we are committed to you. We are here to answer any questions you may have. If you are charged with a crime and unsure where to turn to next, contact the De Castroverde Law Group and let us get to work for you today.