What is the difference between being innocent and being found not guilty? 

What is the difference between being innocent and being found not guilty?

 

Expert Answers
Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When a person is accused and tried for a crime, the prosecution, the state, must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused's actions have met all the requisite elements of the crime for a finding of guilt, generally that a crime has actually been committed by the accused and that the accused had the requisite intent.  When a person is found "not guilty," this means that the requisite elements have not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the standard in the United States in a criminal trial. This does not mean the person did not commit the crime.  It means there is insufficient evidence in some way, perhaps no physical evidence to connect the defendant to the crime or no means of establishing intent, for example, some sort of reasonable doubt.   But a finding of "not guilty" does not necessarily imply innocence.  A judge or a jury is in no position to judge that a person is innocent of a crime because the evidence presented by the defense need not prove that at all. The burden is on the state to prove that a defendant did commit the crime. There is no burden on the defense to prove that the defendant did not commit the crime.  The finding of "not guilty" speaks only to the evidence presented, not to the fact of innocence or guilt.  In Scotland, there is actually a distinction made in criminal trial verdicts such that the verdict may be "not guilty" or "not proven."  While I am by no means an expert on Scottish jurisprudence, it is my understanding that "not guilty" is meant to signal something closer to what might be considered innocence, while "not proven" signals that only that the prosecution could not make its case.