An acquittal occurs when someone accused of a criminal offence takes their matter to trial and is found not guilty of the offences.
Following pre-trial discussions involving the criminal defence lawyer, the Crown Attorney and a judge, the accused and their criminal defence lawyer will sometimes decide that it is the best course of action to take the matter to trial.
It is sometimes possible to resolve criminal offence charges without going to trial.
For example, if the Crown Attorney can be convinced by a criminal defence lawyer that there is no reasonable prospect of conviction, they may decide to withdraw the criminal offence charge before the matter ever gets to trial.
Following the trial the jury or judge must consider the evidence adduced at trial and make a decision as to whether or not the accuse is guilty of the alleged offences beyond a reasonable doubt.
Depending on the facts of the case, if the accused's criminal defence lawyer has argued effectively on their behalf, the accused can be acquitted.
After a trial, an acquittal is the most favourable outcome for the accused.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Section 11h
Section 11h of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that "Any person charged with an offence has the right ... if finally acquitted of the offence, not to be tried for it again and, if finally found guilty and punished for the offence, not to be tried or punished for it again...."
This guarantees that once a person accused of a criminal offence is found not guilty or acquitted they cannot then be tried or punished with the same criminal offence again.
Section 11h is important to guarantee the constitutional right of the accused against double jeopardy.
It is unconstitutional for an accused person to be tried for the same criminal offence in relation to the same matter twice, or even for a similar criminal offence in relation to the same matter.
Section 11h applies only after the trial has concluded.
After a trial, both the Crown and the defence have the right to appeal a decision.
Should an appellate court sets aside an acquittal and orders a new trial that trial would not be unconstitutional because the accused has not yet been "finally acquitted."
The Supreme Court of Canada case R. v. Schmidt dealt with double jeopardy.
It was successfully argued by the defence that it would violate Section 11h of the Charter for the accused to face charge of child-stealing, since the accused had already been acquitted of the allegedly similar federal kidnapping charge.
Should the accused be tried by judge and jury, the jury must come to a unanimous decision regarding the guilt of the accused
The accused can be found not guilty or not guilty either by a jury or by a jury
In order to be found guilty or acquitted all members of the jury must come to an agreement.
Should the members of the jury not be able to reach a consensus as to whether the accused is guilty or not guilty, a mistrial will be declared.
At this time, the accused may be prosecuted again for the same crime, should the Crown Attorney make that determination.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence contact Kostman and Pyzer, Barristers today for your free consultation.