What Is an Acquittal?

Acquittal in a criminal case does not mean a defendant is innocent of the crime, only that the prosecutor failed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Understanding Acquittal Under Criminal Law

Under criminal law, an acquittal is a general term for a “not guilty” verdict, but it doesn’t mean the defendant is innocent of the crime. If the defendant is acquitted of a crime, it only means that the prosecutor in the case failed to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt according to the law.

There is a subtle difference between an acquittal and a not guilty verdict. If a defendant is “acquitted,” it means that he/she is found not guilty by a judge or jury of the crime charged. If a defendant is found “not guilty,” it means that he/she is found not legally answerable for the criminal charges filed against him/her. These subtle differences in the law can be confusing to a defendant without a criminal law attorney to explain what these legal terms mean, and what the verdict means to the defendant moving forward.

In some criminal cases, a defendant may be partially acquitted of a crime charged against him/her. For instance, if the defendant is charged with both rape and domestic violence, there may be enough evidence to support one charge but not the other. The defendant may found guilty and convicted of rape, but acquitted on domestic violence charges.

Acquittal and Double Jeopardy

If a person is acquitted, he/she can’t be prosecuted for the same crime again under double jeopardy. The government loses power to prosecute a defendant twice for the same offense. The United States Constitution’s Fifth Amendment contains a double jeopardy clause that prohibits the following:

  • Prosecution for the same offense after acquittal
  • Double convictions for the same offense after acquittal
  • Multiple punishments for the same offense

Civil Liability

An acquittal or not guilty verdict in a criminal trial can still result in a civil trial where monetary damages may be awarded to the victim of the crime. There is a lower standard of proof in civil cases than in criminal cases. A defendant who’s acquitted in a criminal trial should be prepared for the possibility of a civil trial. A criminal law attorney can explain the process and possible liabilities the defendant may face in a civil trial related to the crime.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Knowing how to choose a criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis, MN, can help you hire a lawyer who will prepare an effective defense strategy and fight for the best result from your case. One of the crucial tips when selecting a criminal defense lawyer is to vet those with relevant experience in cases like yours. You can only do this when you thoroughly understand the charges you are facing.
People anticipating an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, might ask, “What is the role of a defense attorney during an arrest?” A skilled criminal defense attorney can explain your options, ensure the police follow the rules, and protect your rights. The attorney will build a solid defense, talk to the prosecutor, and fight for your best interests.
Knowing when to hire a criminal lawyer for your case in Minnesota can help protect your constitutional rights and turn the odds in your favor. You should retain a criminal lawyer immediately after learning you are under investigation, get arrested, or are charged with a crime. Seasoned criminal lawyers understand the criminal justice system, can build a winning defense strategy, and aggressively push for a positive outcome of your case.