Motion for an Acquittal
After a defendant is convicted, he may file a motion for an acquittal. An acquittal is a formal certification of innocence or a finding of not guilty. Typically, the basis for filing a motion for an acquittal is that the evidence does not support the verdict.
When Should Defendant File the Motion for an Acquittal
The motion for an acquittal may be made after the prosecution rests and after the defendant rests his case. The defendant should first file his motion for an acquittal after the prosecution rests and then he should renew his motion when he rests. If the defendant fails to renew his motion for an acquittal, he will be required to show on appeal that a manifest injustice occurred and he is entitled to an acquittal.
The defendant may also renew his motion for an acquittal after the jury returns a verdict or is discharged. If the trial court grants the motion after the defendant has been convicted, the trial court will set aside the verdict and enter a judgment of acquittal.
Trial Court’s Reserving a Decision on a Motion for an Acquittal
The trial court may decide not to rule on the defendant’s motion for an acquittal when the defendant files the motion after the close of the prosecution’s evidence or at the close of the defendant’s case. It is within the trial court’s discretion to permit the case to go to the jury. The trial court may decide on the motion either before or after the jury returns a verdict. If the trial court reserves the decision on the motion until after the jury renders a verdict, the prosecution may still appeal because the defendant’s double jeopardy protection as provided under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution would not be violated.
Considerations in Reviewing the Motion for an Acquittal
When reviewing a motion for an acquittal, the trial court is required to resolve all inferences in favor of the prosecution. The trial court must view the proof in the light most favorable to the prosecution. The trial court is not permitted to assess witness credibility, resolve inconsistent testimony, or weigh the sufficiency of the evidence.
The trial court should grant the motion if there is no evidence upon which a reasonable mind may conclude that the defendant is guilty of the offense as charged.
Preservations and Waivers of Sufficiency of Evidence Claims
If during the defendant’s trial, the defendant made a general argument referring to the insufficiency of the evidence, his claim will be preserved for appellate purposes. If the defendant files a motion for an acquittal at the close of the prosecution’s case, the trial court will only determine the motion on the basis of the evidence presented by the prosecution. The defendant waives any sufficiency claims that are based solely on the prosecution’s case following the filing of the initial motion for an acquittal. If the defendant files a motion for an acquittal at the close of his case, the trial court will review all of the evidence in the record.
Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.