What happens if you are found not guilty?
January 14, 2022 9:07 AM   Subscribe

If you're on trial and being held in jail during the trial, and the jury finds you not guilty, do you just get up from the defense table in the courtroom and, like, walk away? Or do they put you back into handcuffs and take you back to jail for some amount of time? Or do you go back to jail to get processed but NOT in handcuffs? How does it work?
posted by mccxxiii to Law & Government (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Former public defender here. I suspect this varies a little by the law enforcement entity responsible for security/running the jail, but usually, you are released from the jail after being found not guilty. You have to be processed out so you would be brought back from court the way you are normally transported to or from pretrial detention (in handcuffs) with everyone else who needs to be transported. You would then be processed out, your belongings returned to you, and released. The jail here tends to release people after midnight, which can be difficult for transportation needs, especially if the person is disabled or does not live here. So you do not leave directly from counsel table to the street.

Additional wrinkle: if there is some kind of hold from another law enforcement agency (another case, immigration, etc.) the person may not get out at all but be transferred to the other agency's custody. I had this happen once but the hold was not correct and I had to spend hours after successfully trying a case to get my client released. Administrative mistakes are not rare.
posted by *s at 9:15 AM on January 14 [9 favorites]

Best answer: The process that was described to me by one person in that situation was:
a) they immediately went back to prison with their lawyer (rather than guards)
b) they went through exit processing at the prison and had their personal property returned to them
c) lawyer dropped them off at the person's home.

There were two notable details here that probably would have changed person to person:
1) most defendants present in court in civilian clothes - sometimes provided by the prison. In this case, the person wore their own clothes, given to them by their lawyer (from their home). So, no return of clothes to prison was necessary.
2) the person had their own (non-court-appointed) lawyer and had a family that supported them. Hence, no effort by the court or prison was necessary to take the person to jail for return of items, or for them to return to their family.

I also believe it's possible for a person to be in separate trials for multiple crimes, potentially in multiple jurisdictions. In that case, I imagine being found not guilty for one crime would just result in being sent back to prison until the next trial occurs.
posted by saeculorum at 9:16 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am certainly aware of cases where the person was released from custody from the courthouse and had to find their own way back to the jail to get their belongings. A problem, given that their wallet and ID and everything else was back at the jail, an hour long bus ride away. Not sure what their status was though, eg pre-trial custody, trial, sentenced to time served etc.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:20 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are all great answers, thank you. I guess I shouldn't be surprised -- and should have sussed out on my own -- that the answer varies wildly both by jurisdiction and specific situation. Thankfully I'm not asking this for any practical reason ... I was watching an OJ documentary last night and just wondered how that played out back in the day after we all gasped and turned off our TVs. :)
posted by mccxxiii at 11:03 AM on January 14

In England and Wales, it looks like you travel to court with your personal belongings and you are released from the court custody cells if found not guilty. You are expected to be released "without undue delay" and with "appropriate assistance" if you lack the means to return home. Source: Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons.

I do remember reading that in England and Wales, the other way around (being found guilty with a custodial sentence from bail) you need to take everything you are taking to prison with you into the dock, and nothing that you cannot take as you will be going from the dock directly to the court cells, and then to prison with no likely opportunity to give or receive anything from a friend or family member.
posted by plonkee at 3:00 PM on January 14

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