What is the Judgement of Acquittal in a Criminal Trial?

What is the Judgement of Acquittal in a Criminal Trial?

This article is by Joel Farar, a premier Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer. During a criminal trial, it is possible for the defense to believe the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to convict their client. They may feel the evidence presented by the prosecution does not meet the standard for the defendant to have been charged with a crime. In this situation, the defendant’s attorney may file a motion for judgment of acquittal. A judge could agree with the defendant’s attorney and grant the motion. If this happens, the defendant is acquitted and can no longer be charged with the crimes mentioned in the motion.

When to File Motion
A motion for judgment of acquittal is often presented to a judge when the prosecution rests its case. At this time, the defense has had a chance to see the evidence and how the prosecution presents their case. A judge will review the motion and make a determination whether to approve or deny it at a time they think is appropriate.

Sufficiency of the Evidence
The standard that must be met for a motion of acquittal to be successful is very strict. The evidence must not be sufficient to provide for a fair verdict against the defendant. It will be the job of the judge to determine if the evidence presented by the prosecution would cause a reasonable juror to determine beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant is guilty. If a judge feels this is possible, they will deny the motion. Should a judge conclude that a reasonable juror would have reasonable doubt about the evidence presented, and the prosecution’s case, the judge may approve the motion. This is a high standard to obtain. As a result, it is very difficult for a criminal court to grant a motion for judgment of acquittal. It has happened in some situations where the prosecution’s case against a defendant is based on witness testimony. When testimony of the witness is absolutely incredible and absolutely unbelievable, the motion is often granted.

When Judges Rule
The judge in a criminal case does not have to immediately rule on the motion for judgment of acquittal. They do have the ability to determine when they will provide their decision. Should the prosecution not have sufficient evidence, the judge could quickly grant the motion. The judge could also not provide a ruling until all of the evidence in the trial has been presented by both sides. It is possible for the defense to provide evidence to support their motion. A judge is also able to not provide a ruling on the motion for judgment of acquittal until after the jury has reached its verdict.

Double Jeopardy
Protection against a defendant’s right against double jeopardy is part of a motion for judgment of acquittal. This means that the prosecution is not able to try the defendant again for a crime where they’ve been acquitted. Once a judge approves a motion for judgment of acquittal, the prosecution can’t appeal this decision. It is possible for the prosecution to appeal such a decision only if the motion is granted after a jury renders its verdict. In this case, should the prosecution’s appeal be granted, there would be no need for a retrial. The court would simply reinstate the verdict rendered by the jury.

Judge’s Considerations
When a judge is considering a motion for judgment of acquittal, they must carefully consider the evidence. In a court trial, there is a difference between direct and circumstantial or indirect evidence. The judge must consider all the evidence from the perspective of what is most favorable to the prosecution. They must then determine if there is sufficient direct evidence to answer certain questions of fact. It needs to be considered if the evidence is appropriate for a jury to reach a reasonable conclusion of guilt or innocence. If there is almost no direct evidence or the direct evidence provided by the prosecution is so minimal that no reasonable jury could determine guilt, the motion for judgment of acquittal may be granted.

It is understood that to have a motion for judgment of acquittal granted is a real challenge. Most judges involved with criminal cases do not like to be on record as having interfered with the jury process. They also do not like to approve such a motion where the accumulation of additional evidence could lead to a defendant’s conviction. This type of motion is denied many more times than it is granted.

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