What’s the Difference Between “Not Guilty” and Acquittal?

While the two terms are often used interchangeably, there are cases where one can be acquitted of a crime while also not being found “not guilty”. Just as a square is always a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t always a square, being found not guilty is an acquittal – but an acquittal doesn’t always mean a charge of not guilty.

How Does Acquittal Work?

Acquittal means that the accused person cannot be found guilty of the crime for the time being, but not always that they’re not guilty. For instance, if there is a lack of evidence in the case, the jury may feel that the prosecution failed to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, as is required in law. However, the evidence provided may not be enough to reasonably prove that the individual is not guilty or completely innocent in the case, and as such, they may be acquitted of the crime instead. The distinction between the belief that a person is definitively not guilty, versus not having enough evidence to say that they are beyond a reasonable doubt guilty, is the main difference between being found not guilty or acquittal.

Another important difference between the ruling of not guilty and acquittal comes with a partial acquittal. If a defendant is charged with multiple crimes, and found guilty of one but there is lacking evidence of the other, they will be given a partial acquittal. This means that they’re still found guilty of one charge, but the court does not have enough evidence to find them guilty of the other charge.

If a person is acquitted, as far as the legal system is concerned, they are still not completely innocent of that crime, and as such could still be found guilty in civil court. This still applies to rulings of not guilty as they are also considered an acquittal. A common example of this is O.J. Simpson, who was found not guilty and acquitted of his charges in criminal court, but later found guilty in civil court. This can happen because the rule of double jeopardy only protects against multiple charges being brought against a defendant in the same area of law, and criminal law is separate from civil law. 

If you find yourself facing criminal charges, contact the Law Office of Kevin B. Ross for experienced and strategic legal counsel. We stand with our clients to help create a strategy that works for your case. Call us today at (214) 833-9414 or email at contact@rosscrimlaw.com to get started.

The following two tabs change content below.

Law Office of Kevin B. Ross, P.C.

Texas criminal defense attorneys Kevin B. Ross and Kristen Beckman bring a team approach to the Law Office of Kevin B. Ross, P.C., a Dallas criminal defense law firm that provides PROFESSIONAL, PERSONAL, and PROVEN representation to people in Texas who are accused of state and federal criminal offenses. We believe everyone deserves the strongest and most effective defense possible. The firm represents clients across Texas who are charged with crimes ranging from federal white-collar crimes to state drug charges, DWIs to murder, and everything in between.

Latest posts by Law Office of Kevin B. Ross, P.C. (see all)

%d bloggers like this: