not guilty meaning ?

What is the plea of “not guilty?”

The legal term “not guilty” is a powerful legal phrase that can mean two different things in the courtroom. As a plea, it’s a bold statement by a defendant that they did not commit the crime they’re accused of. This plea is made at the arraignment, the first appearance of the defendant in court. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case will proceed to trial, where the prosecution will have to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt by virtue of oral and documentary evidence.What is the plea of “not guilty

As a verdict, “not guilty” is a finding by a judge or jury that the prosecution has not proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This verdict can be returned after a trial or after a bench trial, where the judge decides the case without a jury. It’s important to note that a finding of not guilty doesn’t necessarily mean the defendant is innocent. It simply means that the prosecution didn’t meet its burden of proof.

If a defendant is found not guilty, they can’t be tried again for the same crime. This is known as double jeopardy, a protection afforded to all citizens under the law of the land.

There are other legal terms related to guilt and innocence that are worth knowing for knowledge seekers. A plea or verdict of guilty means that the defendant has been found to have committed the crime they’re accused of. A plea of no contest is a statement by a defendant that they don’t admit guilt, but they’re willing to accept the consequences of a guilty plea. This plea is often entered in exchange for a reduced sentence. A finding that a defendant is incompetent to stand trial means that they’re not mentally fit to understand the charges against them and participate in their own defense. Finally, a finding of insanity means that the defendant was not responsible for their actions at the time of the crime due to a mental illness.

Origin of the legal phrase “not guilty”origion  of “not guilty

Hey, did you know that the phrase “not guilty” has been around for over 700 years in legal contexts? That’s right; it’s been used since the 1258 English legal document called the “Assize of Clarendon”. This document was created to make the English criminal justice system more efficient, and “not guilty” was used to refer to a defendant’s plea in a criminal case at that time.

But please wait and be more patient, there’s more to explore the topic! “Not guilty” has been used in a variety of legal contexts over the centuries, from civil cases to administrative hearings and disciplinary proceedings. In all of these situations, “not guilty” means that the person is denying the charges or allegations against them.

The principle behind “not guilty” is a fundamental one in the common law system. It’s based on the idea that a person is innocent until and unless proven guilty, and the prosecution has the burden of proof to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This principle is so much important that in 1969, the US Supreme Court held that the right to plead “not guilty” is a fundamental right protected by the US Constitution.


Case law of not guilty in the United States

Case law of not guilty in the United States

Let me tell you a story about two cases that changed the game decades before for double jeopardy in the United States. In 1969, Benton found himself in a Maryland state court facing charges of burglary and larceny. He was acquitted of larceny, but convicted of burglary and sentenced to a whopping 10 years in prison. Benton wasn’t having it and appealed his conviction, arguing that since he was acquitted of larceny, the state couldn’t retry him for that charge. The Supreme Court agreed with the logic, ruling that the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. This decision was a game-changer, ensuring that individuals can’t be tried repeatedly for the same crime again.

Now, let’s fast forward to 1895 and the case of Coffin v. United States. Coffin was on trial in a federal court for murder and was acquitted of the charge. But, the government wasn’t satisfied and appealed the verdict. The appellate court reversed the acquittal and ordered a new trial. The Supreme Court ruled that the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment doesn’t prevent the government from appealing an acquittal. This decision was controversial and received criticism from many legal scholars and dignitaries, but it remains the law of today.

So, what’s the takeaway? Benton v. Maryland established that the Double Jeopardy Clause applies to the states, while Coffin v. United States held that the government can appeal an acquittal. These cases have had a lasting impact on the legal system and ensure that individuals are protected from being tried repeatedly for the same crime.

So, the next time you hear the phrase “not guilty” in a legal context, remember its long and important history in the justice system United States and English common law. It’s a powerful reminder and vital source of law that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and that’s something worth celebrating for the common man and jurist.

                                For more articles on the topic visit here 

Reference & citation :-

Hartwig, M., Granhag, P. A., & Strömwall, L. A. (2007). Guilty and innocent suspects’ strategies during police interrogations. Psychology Crime & Law, 13(2), 213–227.

Bodkin, M. M. (1929). Guilty or not guilty? Talbot Press, 1929


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