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

One of the questions people facing a criminal charge ask is: How long does a criminal case take? The timeline of your criminal case in Minnesota will depend on the nature and severity of the alleged crime, the speed of the criminal justice system, the duration of the trial, and whether an appeal will be necessary. Delays at any stage of the criminal justice process may impact how long your criminal case will last. Generally, however, misdemeanor cases may resolve within weeks or months, while felony cases may linger in courts for up to a year.
People accused, arrested, or charged with a crime often ask, “How much does a criminal defense lawyer cost in Minneapolis, MN?” It is difficult to accurately determine how much a criminal defense lawyer will cost. The reason is that numerous factors impact the cost of legal representation in criminal matters. These factors include the type and severity of criminal charges, the lawyer’s experience and reputation, required time and effort, and geographical location.
Social media can have legal implications, particularly when it comes to criminal cases. Since its advent, social media has become a powerful tool for communication and self-expression. As of 2023, an estimated 4.9 billion people worldwide use social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to share thoughts, experiences, and moments from their lives. However, in this digital age, social media activity can be used as evidence in criminal cases in Minneapolis and elsewhere.