An Acquittal – What is it and How Does it Differ from “Not Guilty”?

Jury nullification.

An Acquittal – What is it and How Does it Differ from “Not Guilty”?

Criminal cases don’t all necessarily end up going to trial. Through criminal case proceedings, a defendant may be able to settle their case with a plea agreement or diversion/deferred prosecution. However, if the defendant and prosecution are unable to come to an agreement, the case will be taken to trial, whether in the form of a bench trial or a jury trial.

During a trial, the prosecution must prove that the defendant committed the crime for which they are being tried “beyond a reasonable doubt” in order to secure a guilty verdict.


If the defendant is not found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, they may be given an acquittal. Acquittals may be ordered by the judge in a bench trial or the jury in a jury trial. In case that involve multiple charges, a defendant may be acquitted for some charges and convicted for others. This is a partial acquittal.

Acquittals may also be ruled prior to the end of a criminal trial. Once the prosecution rests in the trial process, if the defense believes the State failed to produce sufficient evidence against the defendant, they may ask the court to rule in their favor. If the court agrees that there is insufficient evidence to convict the defendant, it may acquit.

Not Guilty

A defendant may be found “not guilty” of a crime by being acquitted, but they also may be found not guilty through insanity or through a successful appeal and overturn of the initial conviction. These not guilty rulings are not the same as acquittals.

Is An Acquittal the Same as Innocence?

Being acquitted in a court of law does not mean that the defendant has been found innocent. Instead, it means that they were not found to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Double Jeopardy Protections Following an Acquittal

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects defendant from being tried for the same offense more than once. Once a defendant has been acquitted, they will not be able to be tried in a criminal court of law again regarding that charge.



With offices in Lake Havasu City and Scottsdale, our firm serves the entire state of Arizona, with a particular focus on criminal defense, family law, and juvenile cases.

Our goal is for the best outcome for your criminal case, which can include:

  • charges that are reduced or dropped.
  • top experts reviewing your case.
  • aggressive negotiations with the prosecution for plea bargains.
  • fines or probation in lieu of jail time.

At Rideout Law Group, our attorneys are able to expertly examine the evidence in your case to provide a strong strategy for argument that leads to an outcome that is most favorable to you. We have experience in all types of criminal cases for both adults and juveniles, with positive outcomes both in plea negotiations as well as jury trial settings.

Call us today for a free consultation at 480-584-3328.

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