Innocent Law and Legal Definition

Innocent typically refers to a finding that a criminal defendant is not guilty of the charges, but may also refer to a finding that a civil defendant isn't liable for the accusations of the plaintiff, such as being found not negligent in a personal injury case. It is synonymous with acquit, which means to find a defendant in a criminal case not guilty. The decision to exonerate the defendant may be made either by a jury or a judge after trial. A prosecutor must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A decision to acquit means that the judge or jury had a reasonable doubt as to the defendant's guilt. It may be based on exculpatory evidence or a lack of evidence to prove guilt.

Because of the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy, once a defendant has been acquitted, he or she cannot be retried for the same matter. In some instances, a person acquitted of a crime may have arrest records expunged.