Acquittals in Criminal Cases: What Does Being Acquitted Mean?
When individuals are accused of a crime, their ultimate goal is often to be acquitted. Acquittal means that a judge or jury has found them “not guilty” of the charges brought against them. It is an essential concept in the criminal justice system and has significant implications for the defendant’s future.
In Nevada, understanding the intricacies of acquittal is crucial for individuals facing criminal charges and their legal representation.
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, being acquitted is the best possible outcome to aim for. Here’s everything you need to know about acquittals in criminal cases.
Definition of Acquittal
Acquittal, in the context of criminal cases in Nevada, is synonymous with a “not guilty” verdict.
When a judge or jury finds a defendant not guilty, they are acquitted of the charges. This can apply to one or more charges in a case. It is important to note that an acquittal does not necessarily mean the defendant is “proven” innocent.
Instead, it signifies that the prosecutor has failed to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Burden of Proof
In a criminal case, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. They must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime they are charged with. This high standard means that there must be no other logical explanation other than the defendant’s guilt.
In contrast, the defense does not have to prove the defendant’s innocence. They only need to establish reasonable doubt in the prosecution’s case.
This means that if the prosecution cannot prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury or judge must acquit them.
Acquittal vs. Denials and Dismissals
While denials and dismissals may result in a similar outcome as an acquittal, they have distinct differences in terms of their legal implications.
Denials occur when the prosecutor decides not to file charges against a defendant. In contrast, dismissals and acquittals involve the resolution of a criminal case through legal proceedings.
A dismissal occurs when the court dismisses the charges against a defendant. This can happen for various reasons, such as insufficient evidence or a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights.
On the other hand, an acquittal is a final disposition of the criminal charge, resulting in a finding of “not guilty.” It can occur after a trial, where the judge or jury determines that the prosecution has not met its burden of proving the defendant’s guilt.
What Does It Mean to Be Acquitted
Being acquitted of criminal charges has significant implications for the defendant’s future. It means that they will not have a criminal record for the charges they were acquitted of, and they cannot be retried for those same charges.
In addition to avoiding potential jail time or fines, an acquittal can also protect a person’s reputation and future job prospects. Being found innocent in the eyes of the law can also bring a sense of closure and vindication for the defendant.
Moreover, an acquittal can set a precedent for similar cases in the future. If a particular type of evidence or legal argument leads to an acquittal, it can be used by other defendants facing similar charges.
For example, here are some important court rulings that affected a lot of people (vs a few dozen or hundred in a given case).
Acquittal and Other Post-Conviction Relief Options
Acquittal stands apart from other post-conviction relief options, such as record sealing or pardons.
Record sealing refers to the legal process of sealing a criminal record. It is available to individuals who have been convicted of certain crimes but have completed their sentence and demonstrated good behavior. Acquittal, on the other hand, involves a determination of innocence and does not require any further action to clear the defendant’s record.
Similarly, a pardon is an official act of forgiveness by the governor or president and can only be granted after a conviction. They are typically granted after a defendant has been found guilty and served their sentence. An acquittal, on the other hand, does not require any form of forgiveness as it signifies that the defendant was never guilty in the first place.
Understanding the Laws and Procedures
To fully grasp the concept of acquittal in Nevada, it is essential to understand the relevant laws and procedures. The Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) provide the legal framework for criminal cases in the state.
According to NRS 175.381, the court has the authority to advise the jury to acquit the defendant if it deems the evidence insufficient to warrant a conviction. This advice, however, is not binding on the jury.
Additionally, a defendant or the court itself can motion for a judgment of acquittal after the jury returns a verdict of guilty. The court may grant this motion if the evidence is found to be insufficient to sustain a conviction.
The Process of Acquittal
Acquittal is the result of a comprehensive criminal process that involves various stages, including indictments, arraignments, and trials. When a defendant pleads not guilty, they are asserting their innocence and expressing their intention to contest the charges in court.
Throughout the trial, the prosecution presents evidence and witnesses to establish the defendant’s guilt, while the defense presents its own evidence and witnesses to challenge the prosecution’s case.
At the conclusion of the trial, the judge or jury deliberates and considers the evidence presented. If the judge or jury finds the defendant not guilty, they are acquitted of the charges.
This means that they are free to go, and the charges against them are dismissed. It is important to note that an acquittal does not necessarily mean the defendant is innocent. It simply means that the prosecution did not meet its burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Seeking Acquittal on Appeal
If a defendant is found guilty but believes they were wrongly convicted, they have the option to appeal the verdict.
During the appeal process, the defendant’s legal representation will present arguments challenging the conviction and seeking acquittal. It is crucial to have skilled attorneys working on the appeal to effectively advocate for the defendant’s rights and demonstrate any errors or inconsistencies in the original trial.
Double Jeopardy Laws and Acquittal
According to the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, individuals cannot be tried for the same crime twice, also known as double jeopardy. This means that if a defendant is acquitted of a charge, they cannot be retried for that same charge. This ensures that individuals are protected from being subjected to multiple prosecutions for the same offense.
However, there are exceptions to double jeopardy laws, such as if new evidence emerges or if the charge is for a different crime. It is essential to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to fully understand how double jeopardy laws may apply in a specific case.
Facing Criminal Charges?
Acquittal is a significant outcome in criminal cases, representing a finding of “not guilty” and absolving defendants of the charges brought against them. It holds great importance for individuals facing criminal accusations, as it allows them to move forward without the burden of a criminal conviction.
Understanding the laws and procedures surrounding acquittal in Nevada is essential for defendants and their legal representation. By seeking skilled and knowledgeable attorneys, individuals can navigate the complex legal process and strive for the best possible outcome.
The Defenders is a team of experienced criminal defense attorneys in Nevada who are dedicated to fighting for the rights and freedom of their clients. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation.
We will provide you with the necessary guidance and support throughout your case.
So, don’t wait; reach out to us today for the best defense possible. Call our office for a free case evaluation at (702) 333-3333.