What Does an Acquittal Mean for You?

definition of acquitted

An acquittal means that you were criminally charged with an offense, but the court found that you were not guilty, generally as a result of a lack of evidence. This is an important distinction from a dismissal, for example, because an acquittal means the state cannot refile the charge or appeal the innocence finding.

When a person is acquitted of an offense, they are legally freed by a court and protection against “double jeopardy” takes effect. Double jeopardy is a Constitutional right that prevents the government from filing criminal charges against you for the same offense multiple times. The government only gets one bite at the apple, so to speak. Whether double jeopardy bars future prosecution can be an extremely complex issue that you should speak with a criminal defense attorney about. Acquitted by definition means a finding of “Not Guilty.”

If a case is dismissed or “No Billed” by a grand jury, then the government can refile the case within the Statute of Limitations. In one scenario, if a court suppresses evidence (says the evidence can’t be used) and the suppression prompts the government to dismiss the case, then the government can appeal the court’s decision to suppress the evidence. Depending on the results of the appeal, the government could decide to refile the charge.

Getting Your Acquittal Expunged

An acquittal is also good for purposes of having your record cleared, or “expunged.” There are several circumstances when a person may be eligible to have his criminal record expunged. This essentially means that any trace of the criminal offense or arrest will be deleted from your record. If you are acquitted, you are entitled to an expunction as a matter of law because you were found to be not guilty. There are some exceptions, for instance, if a different criminal charge arose from the same set of facts. In most cases you can file for an expunction immediately following your acquittal.

expunge criminal records after not guilty

On the other hand, if your case was dismissed (and not refiled), you can still get your record expunged, but you may have to wait much longer. Depending on the reason for your dismissal (technical error, delayed trial, etc.) an expunction on a dismissal is still likely possible. An expunction on a dismissal is slightly more complicated, and there are more hurdles to be considered. Art. 55.01 Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Dismissals also usually happen much earlier in the legal process, because they may save the government resources.

If your case is dismissed for a technicality, and the state still intends to pursue charges, an expunction will not be granted. Likewise, if the records regarding your dismissal are relevant to proceedings against another person, they will most likely not be expunged.

It is important to note that even if you were acquitted, or had an offense dismissed, you will not be eligible for expunction if the charges that were dropped are part of a “criminal episode.” For example, if you were charged with burglary and possession of marijuana, just because you were acquitted of the burglary, the records about the arrest would still be relevant to the possession charge and could not be removed.

There are a lot of intricacies to acquittals and expunctions, so if you are wrestling with these issues contact an attorney about your case so you do not miss out on an important opportunity to clear your name. We have a great track record of dismissals and expunctions. If you are facing charges, or need your record cleared, call us!

Related Topics:

What is an indictment?

What is a Grand Jury?

How do plea bargains work?