Is a Charge the Same as a Conviction?

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Tyler D. Bailey, Esq. with Bailey Law Firm, L.L.C..

Is a Charge the Same as a Conviction?
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Being charged with any kind of offense can be frightening, but is important to note that a charge is not the same as a conviction. A charge is simply an allegation of the crime that was supposedly committed, while a conviction is a court declaration of the person’s decided guilt. Someone who is charged with an offense can choose to plead guilty and move straight to sentencing or choose to plead not-guilty and battle the charge in court. To learn more about the difference between a charge and a conviction, or for help battling charges levied against you, reach out to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

A charge is an allegation, not a fact.

The United States’ justice system is based on the idea that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. This means that no one can be convicted without a fair trial in which the evidence regarding the charge is properly evaluated. A charge is an accusation, but it has no bearing on a person’s guilt or innocence. Someone facing a charge is often referred to as an “alleged offender”, since the charge has not been proven. A charge comes before a conviction and can be fought in court with the help of a criminal defense attorney to establish a person’s innocence.

Unlike civil cases, in a criminal case, the alleged offender does not face prosecution by the person they harmed, but rather by the government that created whatever laws were allegedly violated. It should be noted that a person may face both a criminal trial and a civil trial for the same alleged conduct; however, whereas one trial is intended to establish guilt or innocence, the latter is intended to establish liability or non-liability and does not present a risk of conviction.

A conviction is a formal declaration made by the court regarding a person’s guilt.

A conviction can occur in one of two ways:

  • A conviction can occur at the end of a trial, after both the defense and the state have been given the opportunity to present evidence regarding why or why not they believe the alleged offender is guilty. A jury will deliberate over the evidence, and at the end of the trial decide whether or not they believe the alleged offender is guilty and the judge will hand down a sentence.
  • A conviction can occur when a person pleads guilty at the beginning of their case, negating the need for a trial and moving the process straight to sentencing.

Regardless of how the conviction comes about, after a person has been convicted of a charge, they will be given a sentence by the judge. Depending on the conviction, the sentence can vary from public service and monetary fines to time spent in prison. However, this is not necessarily the end of the road. If you believe you were wrongfully convicted, you can file an appeal to have the case reexamined in a court of appeals, sometimes referred to as an “appellate” court. However, unlike the first trial, this trial will focus on how the initial trial was conducted rather than starting from scratch.

To learn more about the difference between a charge and conviction, or for help battling one, reach out to a criminal defense attorney.

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