The one thing that cannot be appealed
There is one thing that cannot be appealed – an acquittal upon an indictment cannot be appealed.
The accused will not appeal an acquittal because an acquittal is a judgment that means that there is no sufficient evidence to convict the accused.
The prosecution is barred from appealing an acquittal upon an indictment because it will result in double jeopardy.
When an indictment is issued by the prosecution, what happens next is a committal hearing. At a committal hearing a magistrate sitting as an administrative employee of the court, will sit and look at the evidence in support of an indictment. He does this to ensure that there is sufficient evidence to support the indictment.
After the Magistrate finds that there is, at first glance, sufficient evidence to support the indictment, the accused will be arraigned. An arraignment is a hearing where the accused will be produced bodily before the court where he will hear the charges brought against him. He will then be asked how he pleads to the charges that have just been read to him. If he pleads guilty, he admits having committed the crime charged. He will then be sentenced. If he pleads not guilty, then he will be tried.
From the moment that the accused is arraigned, he is already in ‘jeopardy’ or in danger of losing his liberty. When the indictment is dismissed after he is arraigned, the prosecutor cannot appeal the dismissal or bring the same charge. To appeal the dismissal of the indictment or to bring a similar indictment would put the accused in ‘jeopardy’ or danger for a second time. This double ‘jeopardy’ is not allowed by law.
When a judge or a jury acquits the accused upon an indictment the judge or jury finds that there was no sufficient evidence to convict the accused. The finding of acquittal is usually made after arraignment and after the prosecution’s presentation of evidence. An acquittal upon an indictment is a finding that the accused is not guilty.
This finding cannot be appealed by the prosecutor because the appeal would also put the accused in ‘jeopardy’ of losing his liberty for a second time. This is what ‘double jeopardy’ means and it is prohibited by law.
Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.