What is an Acquittal? 

An acquittal is the absolution of a defendant from the charge(s) filed against them. This could be taken in two ways. 

  • The defendant did not commit the crime they’ve been accused of.
  • The prosecutor wasn’t able to prove the defendant’s role in the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Proving a crime beyond a reasonable doubt is a standard that is used in many criminal justice systems across the world. The reason? The protection of the rights of the accused. 

Proof Beyond A Reasonable Doubt 

This is a statement that’s often used when the prosecution has failed to present factual, compelling evidence that proves the role of the defendant in the crime. The system was invented to prevent the conviction of an innocent individual or to avoid making judgements based on assumptions or weak evidence. 

Another way to look at this is that the court considers it comparatively better to release a potentially guilty individual rather than jail an innocent one. 

Who Grants the Acquittal? 

Like every other case, an acquittal is a verdict granted by a judge or jury. This may differ based on the country in which the trial is conducted. In most countries, the jury consists of a group of ordinary citizens who aren’t related to the case. The reason for this is that the unbiased jury can focus more on the arguments presented to them by both sides, i.e., the plaintiff and the defendant. 

Though there are exceptions, the judge goes along with the jury’s verdict on the case. The lack of evidence is the only exception where a judge overturns the jury’s decision. 

What Happens After An Acquittal?

This is particularly important when the defendant is acquitted because there wasn’t sufficient evidence. In this case, an acquittal doesn’t necessarily mean that the defendant did not commit the crime. It just says that the prosecution was weak and didn’t present compelling evidence or hard arguments to prove the defendant’s guilt. 

There’s also Double Jeopardy. In the US Constitution, Double Jeopardy is a procedural defense that prevents an individual from being prosecuted twice for the same crime. Although there are a few exceptional cases, the base rule remains the same. Say, for example, that A has been accused of murder. The prosecution doesn’t have sufficient evidence to prove that A committed the murder and acquits A. With the Double Jeopardy defense, A cannot be prosecuted for a murder charge again. 

The purpose of Double Jeopardy is to protect individuals (those who have been acquitted) from harassment by the state. Another advantage is that it brings proceedings to a close without having to drag things on for many years. 

Not Liable: 

A rather important point to consider is that acquittal is a term that is related to criminal cases. The word “not liable” or “not responsible” is a term used in civil cases, i.e., issues between private parties

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