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What is the difference between innocent and not guilty?

When you are going through a criminal case, you might be just as excited to think about a not guilty verdict as you are to think of proving your innocence. It is very important that you take a step back so you can take a look at the differences between innocent and not guilty.

What is innocent?

Being deemed innocent means that you have been cleared of all speculation that you committed a crime. Innocence isn't really something that can be proven at a trial.

What is not guilty?

When it comes to a criminal case, the prosecution has to prove that a defendant committed a crime "beyond a reasonable doubt." That last clause "beyond a reasonable doubt" means that even if the jury largely thinks that a defendant committed a crime, they must not have any doubt about it. Doubt can be inserted into a case by the defense calling the prosecution's case into question. For example, this can be done by presenting witnesses who claim the defendant was with them at a different location when the crime occurred. Being found not guilty doesn't necessarily mean you are innocent. Instead, it means that the evidence wasn't strong enough for a guilty verdict.

What's the big deal with innocent versus not guilty?

In order to be found not guilty, you have to go through the expense and stress of a trial. In some cases, even being found not guilty won't get your good name back. Being found innocent is something that can be done before trial in various ways. Asserting your innocence and then having charges dropped would be a way that you could truly note that you were innocent.

Source: FindLaw, "Actual Innocence and How It Differs From a Not Guilty Verdict," Ephrat Livni, Esq., accessed May 26, 2016

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