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Definition - What does Acquit mean?

A defendant in a criminal case may receive a motion of acquittal from a judge if the judge determines there was not enough evidence to support a conviction. A motion for an acquittal can be made before, after or at the end of the prosecution's case against the defendant. It can also be made after the jury returns a verdict if the court determines the verdict was improper or irrational. The court may also receive the motion prior to the end of the trial but wait to rule on the motion until the verdict is submitted to the court.

If the court offers an acquittal prior to the jury's decision this is considered a final judgment of acquittal, and the defendant cannot be tried again for the same crime. If the motion to grant the acquittal is made after the jury's decision and the defendant has been found guilty, the court may appeal the acquittal. If the Appeals' court reverses the judge's decision the guilty verdict is reinstated without a retrial.

When is the motion for acquittal denied?

A judge may deny the motion for acquittal if they determine the evidence offered in the criminal trial would convince a "rational person" that the elements of the case have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Civil Motions

In a civil case the defense can also ask for a motion for a directed verdict, which is the counterpart to the motion for a judgment of acquittal in a criminal case. The motion would be requested after the plaintiff presents their case. The judge would make a directed verdict for the defendant only if they decide the plaintiff has not presented enough evidence to prove the elements of their personal injury case.

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