In the USA (let's say in federal court, if that makes it easier), at what exact point in a trial does the defendant's official legal status change from "defendant" to "convicted person" or "acquitted person"? Also, to make it easier, let's say the verdict will be "not guilty" and they will become an "acquitted person".

Is it when there is a unanimous jury vote? When they fill out a form attesting to their vote (if this is done)? When the verdict is read? When the verdict is recorded by the court recorder? Something else?

Consider it as a thought experiment that starts from the point of initial jury deliberation to when the denfendant's legal status officially and irrevocably is "acquitted person". Let's say at each step in the process, the proceedings were completely and permanently stopped. When would that halting become irrelevant and the person's status would be "acquitted person" regardless?

I hope this is clear enough.


Note - this question is not for any real world problem or issue. I'm not seeking legal advice of any kind, I'm just wondering here what the law says.

1 Answer 1


The law doesn't say anything, because that precise instant in time has no legal status. If you want a uniform answer (not one that treats "guilty" and "not guilty" differently), it would be when the judge pronounces the verdict. A verdict of not guilty is immutable from the moment the individual jurors have each voted "not guilty", but a guilty verdict can be set aside by a judge.

A trial doesn't just magically, permanently stop at an arbitrary point, it continue until the pronouncement of verdict. If e.g. the court recorder dies a nanosecond before the judge utters the verdict, it just gets recorded somehow else. If Lex Luthor blows up the jury and their votes before the verdict announces the verdict, the judge would probably order a mistrial and a different jury convicts him.

Since a conviction can be overturned on appeal, a person "definitively" convicted is "a convicted person" only conditionally – until there is no possibility of overturning the conviction. The only thing that is immutable under US law is a finding of not guilty.

  • Thanks for your reply. I'll take "the judge pronounces the verdict" as good enough for my purposes. Yes - I understand the rest. That's what I meant by "thought experiment". Sep 17, 2022 at 15:40
  • Doesn't the judge rap a gavel on the desk to identify the moment of closure (as an auctioneer does)? Sep 17, 2022 at 19:07

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