Old French aquite-r, acuiter (Provençal aquitar) < late Latin acquitāre, < ac- = ad- to + *quitāre, = Latin quiētare to settle; see quit n.1 As in quit, the vowel was long, aquīte, to 16th and even 17th cent.
- 1: a setting free from the charge of an offense by verdict, sentence, or other legal process
- 2: To pay the debt for and free (a debtor or prisoner); to deliver, ransom.
- 3: To set free, release, liberate, deliver, rid (a person of or from a duty, obligation, or burden)
In the common law tradition, an acquittal formally certifies the innocence of the accused, as far as the criminal law is concerned. This is so even where the prosecution is abandoned nolle prosequi. Under the rules of double jeopardy and autrefois acquit, an acquittal operates to bar 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 whether it results from the operation of some other rule that discharges the accused.