What’s the exact difference between being “charged,” “convicted” and “sentenced” for a crime?

Today, former Oakland, California, transit police officer Johannes Mehserle received the minimum possible sentence in the controversial death of a teenager on January 1, 2009. The incident and subsequent trial have prompted outrage and violent protests.  Today’s decision brings attention to the legal meanings of  three verbs : “charge,” “convict,” and “sentence.” They appear in the news constantly, but do you know what each term actually describes?

Let’s begin with “charge.” When a person is charged with a crime, a formal allegation (a statement not yet proven) of an offense is made.

Once convicted, the person has been proven or declared guilty of the offense. In the United States, a person is convicted after a legal trial.

After a conviction in criminal (as opposed to civil) proceedings, sentencing is next. When sentenced, the convicted criminal is issued a formal judgment that usually pronounces the punishment. The convict can appeal the sentence, but a sentence usually takes effect while appeals occur.

In the case of Mehserle and Oscar Grant, the boy whose death was the focus of the trial, the conviction centered on whether Mehserle was guilty of  manslaughter or murder. What do both terms mean, literally and in the law? What is the difference between first and second degree murder? Get the answers, here.

Are there other common legal terms that you’d like us to clarify? Let us know below.

Conservative forum

Human Events June 16, 2000 | Robinson, Matthew Milwaukee Conference On Intelligent Design “Design and its Critics,” an international conference to be held at the Cranach Institute of Concordia University Wisconsin June 22-24, 2000, will debate the evidence for intelligent design in the universe from the perspectives of science, philosophy and theology.

To address the meeting is an international array of 23 speakers from Canada, Europe and the United States, including Diogenes Allen (Princeton Theological Seminary), Michael Behe (author of Darwin’s Black Box), William Dembski (author of The Design Inference), Brian Josephson (Nobel Laureate in physics), Ken Miller (author of Finding Darwin’s God), Ronald Numbers (author of Darwinism Comes to America), Michael Ruse (author Mystery of Mysteries: Is Evolution a Social Construction?) and Michael Shermer (director of the Skeptics Society). go to site concordia university wisconsin

Intelligent Design (ID) is a broad movement of scientists, philosophers and theologians convinced that there is clear evidence of intelligent design in nature. This view challenges the reigning philosophy of naturalism, which limits science to the investigation of natural causes only.

At stake is not only the future direction of science, but also the basis of morality and authority in culture. On May 10, for example, during a conference on Capitol Hill, various leading proponents of ID, including Behe, Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson (author of Darwin om Trial) and Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Nancy Pearcey (co-author of The Soul of Science), explained the cultural importance of teaching design in the classroom and critiquing the deleterious effects of materialistic evolution (see “Science vs. Darwin,” June 2 HuMAN EVENTS, page 14).

Don’t Let Clinton Cut Submarine Fleet In “Why Cutting the Submarine Fleet Will Seriously Threaten National Security,” defense and national security analyst Jack Spencer (Heritage Foundation “Backgrounder” #1374, June 1, 2000) says the Clinton Administration wants to cuts the U.S. fleet of nuclear-powered attack submarines, despite warnings from officials in the U.S. Navy, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Defense Science Board that the United States needs more attack submarines. According to Spencer, “since 1990, the number of attack submarines has dropped from 96 to 56, and it may drop even further. At a time when there are increasing threats from rogue states like Iran and North Korea and weapons of mass destruction are prolif erating, the administration ‘ should be strengthening” its submarine fleet, “not weakening it.” For more information, contact Heritage public relations at 202-546-4400. Heritage publications are available on the Internet at www.heritage.org.

Phillips Foundation 7th Annual Journalism Fellowship Awards Four young and promising journalists saw their work rewarded and applauded at the 7th Annual Journalism Fellowship awards held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The May 16 gala event sponsored by the Phillips Foundation drew a large gathering of same of the capital’s most prominent journalists: Featured speaker George F. Will, a columnist far the Washington Post, was also honored with a Lifetime Achievement award.

The foundation awards grants to working print journalists to write an projects of their choosing. The foundation is dedicated to promoting a deeper understanding of liberty, American culture and the Constitution.

This year two Gold Awards for $50,000 and two Silver Awards far $25,000 were given to journalists with less than five years of professional experience. The winners hailed from all over the world-from Mainstreet America all the way to China’s GI Gate of Heavenly Peace.

Colleen Carroll, editorial writer with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, received a fulltime Gold Award. Carroll, 25, will explore “A Modem Miracle: The Quiet Conversion of Young American Adults.” Carroll’s idea began at Marquette University when she saw media reports that portrayed her generation as “cynical and irreverant.” “But that’s not the whole story of Generation X,” She said. “`I’he rest of the story-about young adults increasingly drawn to the religious devotion abandoned by their parents, about idealistic [Generation] ?hers who are embracing traditional morality so many of their peers and pop culture idols dismiss or disparate-largely remains untold.” Shai Osier, Beijing correspondent for the Bureau of National Affairs, also took home one of the Gold Awards. The 27year-old Oster will examine what he calls, “Mao’s Muddle-china’s Attempt to Embrace American Prosperity and Reject American Ideals.” Taking home the fist of two Silver Awards was Eric Cohen, managing editor of the Public Interest. Cohen, 22, plans a study of the new generation of American capitalists as embodied by the Internet entrepreneurs and what recent technological changes could mean for American politics. web site concordia university wisconsin

Stephen Hayes also plans to use his Silver Award to study the changing political dynamics in American democracy. Hayes, 29. will focus on “Old-Time Politics in a New Century: Race and the 2000 Elections” with special emphasis on how the parties. candidates and political leaders use, appeal, and reach out to different races.

George Will both praised and warned the upcoming members of the Fourth Estate.

“You will have the most exciting jobs because none of the ideas in politics are new. Many of the debates we have today go back 200 years or more,” he said. “Journalists sift the sands of change, and what makes that exciting is that you work in the company of Jefferson, Hamilton, Marshall and the other Founders.” That means, Will added, “that one conservative journalist is an army.” If so, the Phillips Foundation just added four battalions.

-Matthew Robinson Robinson, Matthew


  1. jason -  May 11, 2013 - 8:50 pm

    What does withheld mean on a felony charge in a nonjury trail ???

  2. Kaitlyn -  December 5, 2011 - 11:33 am

    How could a sentence come before a charge? – in relation to plea bargaining?

  3. Curly Hair -  November 17, 2010 - 3:45 am


    You disagree with the definition? It’s not a matter of disagreeing. Charge is a word. You can’t have opinions on definitions. Can you say “I think that to charge means to punch the face of“? No, because it doesn’t.

    I think you might be getting confused with other definitions of “charge”. But this specific usage means what Dictionary.com says it means.

  4. Elissa Sangi -  November 9, 2010 - 12:59 pm

    How about “suspicious”? i.e. suspicious of eing under the influence of anything–and without any testing, blood,urine–ow can they hold one on the charge of suspicion? Here is where it is so important to now ur rights. They cannot keep one in a holding cell based on suspicion. I’d like you to define this legal terminology.

  5. Cyberquill -  November 6, 2010 - 2:38 pm

    @Dawn Rani:

    If a jury finds a defendant “not guilty” of a crime, they are, by definition, confirming that the defendant is innocent. Keep in mind that we are all innocent until proven guilty. So if a jury finds us “not guilty,” the jury finds us, de jure, to be innocent.

  6. PuroVarrio -  November 6, 2010 - 2:14 pm

    Yet another wonderful comment from the mighty PuroVarrio!

  7. PuroVarrio -  November 6, 2010 - 1:32 pm

    @AileanFritoitya, there is no such person named Elpin Saghin, you boob. But Vine Deloria Jr. did say “he who fails to protect justice for everybody, fails to guard the very democracy that would provide him with liberty and gumption for his own means.”

  8. AileanFritoitya -  November 6, 2010 - 9:21 am

    As a Jugde, I agree with Elpin Saghin,
    who maintained the bosom of justice
    must be supported in the hammock of

  9. smoothius -  November 6, 2010 - 9:14 am

    i think it’s kelvin actually

  10. learning a new word-stolid -  November 6, 2010 - 9:11 am

    You are aquitted for now on the condition that you get me out of this.

    It is a line from a movie in which I have learned the word aquit.

  11. Justin -  November 6, 2010 - 8:49 am

    I disagree with the definition of to charge. It was: “When a person is charged with a crime, a formal allegation (a statement not yet proven) of an offense is made.”

    To my mind, to charge is to call someone guilty officially (a claim recognized as legitimate by a court), such that the person becomes involved in an official process whereby a legal body investigates the person to determine if the person really is guilty.

    I think it would also be more descriptive to add that to charge can be used more loosely and with varying degrees of meaning in different legal systems.

  12. Waleno -  November 6, 2010 - 8:05 am

    @Cyberquill Fahrenheit for sure and if you are peeing you should do it in a bathroom; one degree is much to cold be be exposing yourself to no matter how many times you count it.

    Seriously, I don’t watch TV or listen to the radio and I only very rarely read the news on my homepage. being all self-centered like I am I frequently don’t catch major stories until they are over. I missed Katrina for a month and this is the first I have heard of this. It staggers my mind to think of the sentence a “public servant” receives in comparison to a regular citizen.

  13. Dawn Rani -  November 5, 2010 - 10:33 pm

    On November 5, 2010 at 2:55 pm, Titte B oob wrote:”Acquitted” is the opposite of convicted. It is the term used when the accused is declared innocent of the crime.”

    Titte B oob- If I may I’d like to clarify the definition of acquitted used above. ‘Acquitted’, a legal term of art doesn’t literally mean that the court declared the defendant innocent of the charged crime, rather ‘acquitted’ means that the jury did not find him ‘guilty’.

    The American justice system doesn’t pronounce innocence merely that the defendant was not found guilty of the charged crime. Not merely semantics as not recognizing the distinction between the two could have far reaching ramifications. For example: The glove didn’t fit they decided to acquit, however in the subsequent civil trial (where the burden of proof is lower) he was found to be liable/responsible, thereby made to pay damages.

    If the criminal court had declared him ‘innocent’, without culpability then the civil court could not have even tried the civil case, let alone found him liable.

  14. Dre -  November 5, 2010 - 9:50 pm

    “In the case of Mehserle and Oscar Grant, the boy whose death was the focus of the trial, the conviction centered on whether Mehserle was guilty of manslaughter or murder.”

    Oscar Grant was 22 years old when he was murdered. He was not a “teenager” or a “boy” as your article states. He was a man. Please make this revision to your article.

  15. JUSTICE | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  November 5, 2010 - 8:24 pm

    [...] so carry a gun and have no fear — of terrorists — who are we trying to kid? – “Charged”, “Convicted” and “Sentenced” — all is so misleading. — First and Second degree murder and Manslaughter still [...]

  16. Cyberquill -  November 5, 2010 - 8:03 pm

    @TitteB ooB

    Thank you. Two counts of first degree murder–would that be Fahrenheit or Celsius? (I’m European, and I always get confused with the units.)

  17. Justin beiber is terribad -  November 5, 2010 - 3:09 pm


  18. Titte B ooB -  November 5, 2010 - 2:55 pm


    The term “suspect”, with regard to criminal investigations, refers to an individual believed to be guilty of the crime. Once evidence is found or a confession is given, the “suspected” individual is then formally charged with the crime.

    “Acquitted” is the opposite of convicted. It is the term used when the accused is declared innocent of the crime.

    As far as the glove goes, I can only guess that you are referring to the O.J. Simpson trial in which O.J. was acquitted on two counts of first degree murder, as there is no reference to a glove in the blog. O.J.’s attorney is oft-quoted as saying “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit” in reference to the leather glove that was found at the crime scene.

  19. hoen -  November 5, 2010 - 2:35 pm

    add more detail

  20. Cyberquill -  November 5, 2010 - 2:33 pm

    Yeah, what exactly is the difference between suspected and acquitted? And where does the glove come in?


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