Although an acquittal generally means that the defendant is not guilty, there is a difference between being acquitted and not guilty. If you find yourself charged with a crime, you may wonder, “What does being acquitted mean, and how is it different from not guilty?”
An acquittal is when the prosecutor can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. When the judge or jury finds a defendant not guilty, the defendant isn’t legally answerable for the criminal charge.
There are differences between an acquittal and several other verdicts, and each has its own consequences.
Acquitted Versus Not Guilty
Although the defendant doesn’t receive punishment for the crime charged in both cases, there is a difference between being acquitted and not guilty. Being found not guilty means that the defendant isn’t answerable for the crime. However, if the prosecutor doesn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty, the defendant will be acquitted. It’s possible for a defendant to be acquitted of a crime in a criminal case but held liable for the same offense in a civil case.
Acquittal Versus Dismissal
Just like there are differences between an acquittal and not guilty, there are procedural differences between an acquittal and a dismissal. As stated above, being acquitted happens when the prosecutor can’t prove that the defendant is guilty. A dismissal happens earlier in the court process for a variety of reasons. A dismissal is sometimes referred to as having the charges dropped. A dismissal occurs when:
- The prosecutor doesn’t think there is enough evidence
- The judge doesn’t think there are enough resources to try the case
- The judge thinks the case lacks credibility
There are several reasons a defense attorney can petition the court for a dismissal. If the police made the arrest without probable cause or conducted an unlawful search and seizure, that is grounds for dismissal. There is also a good reason for dismissal if there is insufficient evidence or the district attorney made mistakes in the criminal complaint or charging documents.
When a case is dismissed, the case ends, and the defendant doesn’t have to stand trial.
Double Jeopardy and Acquittals
When a case is acquitted, double jeopardy applies. Double jeopardy means that there won’t be a prosecution for the same offense, double convictions for the same offense, or multiple punishments for the same offense.
It’s important to note that if a defendant is acquitted in state court, the defendant can still be charged with the same crime in federal court. Vise versa also applies.
There are many ways a case can end without harming the defendant, and one of these is an acquittal. Now you have the answer when someone asks you, “What does acquitted mean?” If you’ve been charged with a crime, contact our experienced Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys of De Castroverde Law Group.