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In law, a conviction is the verdict reached by a court of law finding a defendant guilty of a crime. [1] The opposite of a conviction is an acquittal (that is, "not guilty"). In Scotland, there can also be a verdict of "not proven", which is considered an acquittal. Sometimes, despite a defendant being found guilty, the court may order that the defendant not be convicted. This is known as a discharge and is used in countries such as England, Wales, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

The criminal justice system is not perfect and there are instances in which innocent people are convicted. Appeal mechanisms and post conviction relief procedures may help to address this issue to some extent. An error leading to the conviction of an innocent person is known as a miscarriage of justice. In some judicial systems, the prosecution may appeal acquittals; while in others, this is prohibited under double jeopardy protections.

After a defendant is convicted, the court determines the appropriate sentence as a punishment. In addition to the sentence, a conviction can also have other consequences, known as collateral consequences of criminal charges. These can include impacts on employment, housing, and other areas of an individual's life.

A minor conviction is a warning conviction that does not affect the defendant but serves as a warning.[ citation needed ]

A person's history of convictions is known as their antecedents or "previous" in the United Kingdom and "priors" in the United States and Australia.

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In United States law, an Alford plea, also called a Kennedy plea in West Virginia, an Alford guilty plea, and the Alford doctrine, is a guilty plea in criminal court, whereby a defendant in a criminal case does not admit to the criminal act and asserts innocence, even if the evidence presented by the prosecution would be likely to persuade a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This can be caused by circumstantial evidence and testimony favoring the prosecution and difficulty finding evidence and witnesses that would aid the defense.

In jurisprudence, double jeopardy is a procedural defence that prevents an accused person from being tried again on the same charges following an acquittal or conviction and in rare cases prosecutorial and/or judge misconduct in the same jurisdiction. Double jeopardy is a common concept in criminal law. In civil law, a similar concept is that of res judicata. Variation in common law countries is the peremptory plea, which may take the specific forms of autrefois acquit or autrefois convict. These doctrines appear to have originated in ancient Roman law, in the broader principle non bis in idem.

A plea bargain is an agreement in criminal law proceedings, whereby the prosecutor provides a concession to the defendant in exchange for a plea of guilt or nolo contendere. This may mean that the defendant will plead guilty to a less serious charge, or to one of the several charges, in return for the dismissal of other charges; or it may mean that the defendant will plead guilty to the original criminal charge in return for a more lenient sentence.

In legal terms, a plea is simply an answer to a claim made by someone in a criminal case under common law using the adversarial system. Colloquially, a plea has come to mean the assertion by a defendant at arraignment, or otherwise in response to a criminal charge, whether that person pleaded or pled guilty, not guilty, nolo contendere, no case to answer, or Alford plea.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jury</span> Group of people to render a verdict in a court

A jury is a sworn body of people (jurors) convened to hear evidence and render an impartial verdict officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment.

Jury nullification (US/UK), jury equity (UK), or a perverse verdict (UK) occurs when the jury in a criminal trial gives a not guilty verdict regardless of whether they believe a defendant has broken the law. The jury's reasons may include the belief that the law itself is unjust, that the prosecutor has misapplied the law in the defendant's case, that the punishment for breaking the law is too harsh, or general frustrations with the criminal justice system. Some juries have also refused to convict due to their own prejudices in favor of the defendant. Such verdicts are possible because a jury has an absolute right to return any verdict it chooses.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Acquittal</span> The legal result of a verdict of not guilty

In common law jurisdictions, an acquittal means that the prosecution has failed to prove that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the charge presented. It certifies that the accused is free from the charge of an offense, as far as criminal law is concerned. The finality of an acquittal is dependent on the jurisdiction. In some countries, such as the United States, an acquittal prohibits the retrial of the accused for the same offense, even if new evidence surfaces that further implicates the accused. The effect of an acquittal on criminal proceedings is the same whether it results from a jury verdict or results from the operation of some other rule that discharges the accused. In other countries, like Australia and the UK, the prosecuting authority may appeal an acquittal similar to how a defendant may appeal a conviction — but usually only if new and compelling evidence comes to light or the accused has interfered with or intimidated a juror or witness.

Trial in absentia is a criminal proceeding in a court of law in which the person who is subject to it is not physically present at those proceedings. In absentia is Latin for "in (the) absence". Its meaning varies by jurisdiction and legal system.

A hung jury, also called a deadlocked jury, is a judicial jury that cannot agree upon a verdict after extended deliberation and is unable to reach the required unanimity or supermajority. Hung juries usually result in the case being tried again.

Not proven is a verdict available to a court of law in Scotland. Under Scots law, a criminal trial may end in one of three verdicts, one of conviction ("guilty") and two of acquittal.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Miscarriage of justice</span> Conviction of a person for a crime that they did not commit

A miscarriage of justice occurs when a grossly unfair outcome occurs in a criminal or civil proceeding, such as the conviction and punishment of a person for a crime they did not commit. Miscarriages are also known as wrongful convictions. Innocent people have sometimes ended up in prison for years before their conviction has eventually been overturned. They may be exonerated if new evidence comes to light or it is determined that the police or prosecutor committed some kind of misconduct at the original trial. In some jurisdictions this leads to the payment of compensation.

Beyond (a) reasonable doubt is a legal standard of proof required to validate a criminal conviction in most adversarial legal systems. It is a higher standard of proof than the standard of balance of probabilities commonly used in civil cases because the stakes are much higher in a criminal case: a person found guilty can be deprived of liberty, or in extreme cases, life, as well as suffering the collateral consequences and social stigma attached to a conviction. The prosecution is tasked with providing evidence that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in order to get a conviction; albeit prosecution may fail to complete such task, the trier-of-fact's acceptance that guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt will in theory lead to conviction of the defendant. A failure for the trier-of-fact to accept that the standard of proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt has been met thus entitles the accused to an acquittal. This standard of proof is widely accepted in many criminal justice systems, and its origin can be traced to Blackstone's ratio, "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Criminal justice system of Japan</span>

Within the criminal justice system of Japan, there exist three basic features that characterize its operations. First, the institutions—police, government prosecutors' offices, courts, and correctional organs—maintain close and cooperative relations with each other, consulting frequently on how best to accomplish the shared goals of limiting and controlling crime. Second, citizens are encouraged to assist in maintaining public order, and they participate extensively in crime prevention campaigns, apprehension of suspects, and offender rehabilitation programs. Finally, officials who administer criminal justice are allowed considerable discretion in dealing with offenders.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Criminal law of Canada</span>

The criminal law of Canada is under the exclusive legislative jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada. The power to enact criminal law is derived from section 91(27) of the Constitution Act, 1867. Most criminal laws have been codified in the Criminal Code, as well as the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, Youth Criminal Justice Act and several other peripheral statutes.

Actual innocence is a special standard of review in legal cases to prove that a charged defendant did not commit the crimes that they were accused of, which is often applied by appellate courts to prevent a miscarriage of justice.

Collateral consequences of criminal conviction are the additional civil state penalties, mandated by statute, that attach to a criminal conviction. They are not part of the direct consequences of criminal conviction, such as prison, fines, or probation. They are the further civil actions by the state that are triggered as a consequence of the conviction.

United States criminal procedure derives from several sources of law: the baseline protections of the United States Constitution; federal and state statutes; federal and state rules of criminal procedure ; and state and federal case law. Criminal procedures are distinct from civil procedures in the US.

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides: "[N]or shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb..." The four essential protections included are prohibitions against, for the same offense:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Italian Code of Criminal Procedure</span>

The Italian Code of Criminal Procedure contains the rules governing criminal procedure in every court in Italy. The Italian legal order adopted four codes since the Italian Unification. After the first two codes, in 1865 and 1913, the Fascist Government established in 1930 a new code adopting an inquisitorial system. In 1988 the Italian Republic adopted a new code, that could be considered to be somewhere in between the inquisitorial system and the adversarial system.

In law, post conviction refers to the legal process which takes place after a trial results in conviction of the defendant. After conviction, a court will proceed with sentencing the guilty party. In the American criminal justice system, once a defendant has received a guilty verdict, he or she can then challenge a conviction or sentence. This takes place through different legal actions, known as filing an appeal or a federal habeas corpus proceeding. The goal of these proceedings is exoneration, or proving a convicted person innocent. If lacking representation, the defendant may consult or hire an attorney to exercise his or her legal rights.


  1. Garner, Bryan A., ed. (2000). Black's law dictionary (7th ed.). St. Paul, Minn.: West Group. p. 335. ISBN   0-314-24077-2.