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A judgement in which a court of law decides that a defendant is guilty of committing a crime is known as a conviction in the legal system. An acquittal is the verdict reached in the opposite direction of a conviction (that is, "not guilty"). A judgement of "not proved," which in Scotland has the same legal weight as an acquittal, is another possible outcome. Even though a person is found guilty of the charge against them, the court may nonetheless decide to not convict them under certain circumstances. This method, which is used in nations such as England, Wales, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, is referred to as a discharge.

Because of flaws in the system, there are times when persons who are innocent of a crime are found guilty, and conversely, there are times when guilty defendants are found not guilty. Mechanisms for appeal and processes for post-conviction remedies could be helpful in addressing this problem, at least to some degree. A "miscarriage of justice" refers to when a mistake in the legal system results in the conviction of an innocent person.

When a defendant has been found guilty, the court will decide what kind of sentence is warranted as a form of punishment. In addition to the sentence, a person who is convicted may also be subject to further repercussions, which are referred to as the "collateral consequences" of their criminal accusations. This may include repercussions for a person's work, living situation, and even other aspects of their life.

In the United Kingdom, a person's history of convictions is referred to as their "antecedents," whereas in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom, it is referred to as their "priors."