Difference Between Charged and Convicted

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Charged and Convicted

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How often has one watched and misunderstood legal jargon on crime shows? Of course, the prime aim or focus of watching the show is the handsome attorney or the murderer whose face you cannot quite get out of your mind. Or better yet, the only reason one watches the crime show is to figure out how the crime was committed. Also, why? Why commit a crime? The justifying psychology behind the motive, however twisted, is what drives one to indulge in box loads of snacks while they binge these nail-biting stories.

However, it is rather off-putting when we fail to grasp the true meaning behind all the complicated terms that the characters very suavely throw around. Yes, ‘guilty’, ‘overruled’, ‘hold you in contempt’, these are quite understandable and exciting. But what about the more complex ones? Ones that sound quite similar but have meanings that could have different consequences for the person involved.

Law as a subject is interesting, to say the least. It is a vast subject that requires endless reading. And one has to be extremely thorough which requires copious amounts of patience because every single term has a different definition and it is essential to remember every single one of them. And it is important to remember the differences between similar sounding words as well for a life of a person could be in the hands of an attorney. A single mistake with any term could lead the person to jail or worse, the electric chair. On the other hand, knowing the right words and meanings could produce an exceptional lawyer and also save lives.

Differences between charged and convicted in a tabular form

Definition When a person is accused of a crime, they are said to being charged of the crime. When a person is found guilty of committing a crime after a trial, they are said to be convicted of the crime.
Guilty When a person is charged, they are only accused of the crime. They are not guilty of the crime. When a person is convicted, it means that they have committed the crime and by law are guilty of the same.
Evidence and witnesses There are not enough witnesses or there is not sufficient evidence that has been gathered as of yet when a person is charged of a crime. There is sufficient evidence or enough witnesses to prove that the person has committed the crime and therefore has to be convicted.
Proof There is insufficient proof thus it is called ‘Probable Cause’. There is sufficient proof thus it is called

‘Burden of Proof’

Court proceedings When a person is charged with a crime, they have to attend the court to face trial following which they will be proven guilty or not guilty depending on the evidence presented and the decision of the presiding jury. When a person is convicted of a crime it either means that they have pleaded guilty or that the jury has found them in the court following a trial.
Punishment It is uncertain if a charged person would receive punishment. If found guilty by the jury after the trial, they are liable for a punishment that is seen fit. If found innocent, they are free. A convicted person most definitely receives a punishment since they have been found guilty of the crime they have committed.
Type of accusation Formal accusation by the court of law. Formal declaration of guilt by the court of law.
Term Alleged offender Offender
Employment opportunities No restrictions if found ‘not guilty’ by the court of law. Restrictions might be present from certain job opportunities.

What is meant by ‘charged’?

Well, as seen above, to be charged doesn’t solely apply to our electric gadgets. Here being charged refers to people being charged. And not with electricity. Although, how fun would that be? It would probably be like being a superhero – Flash. Imagine superspeed and super-force… No, to be charged is nothing cool. It is, in fact, pretty scary.

Being charged with a crime is firstly and most importantly not the decided route to prison or the noose (depending on the crime). Being charged means to be formally accused by the court. It is a mere allegation and there is no hard proof to drive one to the jail yet. The person charged with a crime is called an ‘alleged offender’ – this means that they haven’t been proven to have committed the crime.

Once a person is charged, it can be alarming. But there is no reason to panic yet. A charge can be driven away if innocent since, by law, a person charged with a crime is always innocent until proven guilty. For this purpose, the charged person should attend the court for the proceedings. Therefore, being charged with a crime is the step that leads to trial which could lead to conviction (if found guilty).

When a person is charged with a crime, it is only normal to wonder why. Well, the answer is that the government can accuse a person of just about anything. They need very little evidence to charge a person. This amount of evidence is termed ‘probable cause’. Once charged, the person must attend the court to undergo a trial. Here they will have a defence attorney who will fight their case by either providing more proof of their innocence or refuting evidence provided by the prosecution or the opposing side. The presiding jury listens to both cases and determines if the person is indeed guilty or innocent.

Being charged with a crime does not necessarily prove a hurdle when applying for jobs. They often question whether the applicant has been convicted, proving guilt or offence. Therefore, if one has only been charged with a crime, they have nothing to worry about when it comes to job offers. Only when one is convicted do they have to start counting their pennies.

What is meant by ‘convicted’?

To be convicted is a rather much harder fix to get out of than to be charged with a crime. When one is convicted it is a sure ruling by the jury that the person has indeed committed a crime and is guilty. Conviction, as mentioned before, is the step following a charge of crime. In a civil case, the alleged offender faces the prosecution by the person whom they have committed a crime against. This is not the case in a criminal case. In a criminal case, the alleged offender faces prosecution by the government against the laws that they have violated. However, an alleged offender might have to face a civil case and a criminal case. But in such a scenario, in a civil case, the trial would be to find out if the alleged offender is liable or not liable for the crime and it wouldn’t present a risk of conviction. In a criminal case, the trial would be to find out if the alleged offender is guilty or innocent. If guilty, it would surely mean conviction. 

To be convicted, the amount of evidence must be massive and definitive. When such a type of evidence is gathered by the government, it is called the ‘Burden of Proof’. There are no guidelines or rules that say for sure that such and such amount of proof defines the ‘Burden of Proof’. It is rather dependent on the jury and moral judgment. But when such a proof is found, it is indeed ‘Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt’ and most certainly causes conviction of the alleged offender.

A conviction can occur in one of the two following ways:

  1. The person when charged with a crime pleads guilty or accepts that they have indeed committed the crime. In such a case, there would be no need for a trial so the person would directly face the sentence given by the judge.
  2. When a person charged with a crime pleads ‘not guilty’, there arises a need for a trial to prove their innocence. In such a case, at the trial, the defence and the prosecution present their evidence and witnesses to either disprove or prove the alleged offender of their guilt respectively. A jury presides over the proceedings and collectively comes upon a verdict deeming the charged person either ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’. If found ‘guilty’, the alleged offender is then convicted of the crime and faces the punishment decided by the judge. If found ‘not guilty’, the alleged offender is allowed to walk free.

Thus, when a person is ‘convicted’ of a crime, it means that punishment is certain. Depending on the seriousness of the crime, the sentence can range from simple public service to time in prison. But worry not, if innocent i.e. if the alleged offender has been wrongfully convicted, they can file an appeal. Their appeal will be taken up by the court of appeals or the appellate court, where they will focus on the events that took place in the first trial rather than repeat the whole trial.

Differences between charged and convicted in points

Following are the main differences between ‘being charged’ and ‘being convicted’:

  1. Being charged means to be formally accused of a crime while being convicted means to be found guilty of committing a crime.
  2. When a person is charged, they don’t need to be guilty of having committed a crime but when a person is convicted, it is sure that the person has indeed committed the crime i.e. they are guilty.
  3. When a person is charged, the government has insufficient evidence to prove their guilt. When a person is convicted, there is sufficient evidence by the government to prove the guilt of the alleged offender.
  4. The evidence found when the person is charged is called ‘probable evidence’ since it is insufficient to prove their guilt. On the other hand, the excessive amount of evidence needed to convict a person is called the ‘Burden of Proof’. It should prove that the person is guilty and the proof is ‘Proof beyond a Reasonable Doubt.’
  5. When a person is charged with a crime, to prove their innocence they must attend court and have a defence attorney fight their case. When a person is convicted, it could happen in two ways – they plead guilty in the court eliminating the need for a trial or they are found guilty at the end of the trial by the jury.
  6. When a person is charged, the punishment depends on whether or not they are found guilty. If found ‘not guilty’ they are set free, without punishment. But if found guilty, they are convicted and a convicted person receives a punishment decided by the judge.
  7. Being ‘charged’ of a crime is only a formal accusation by the court while being ‘convicted’ is a declaration of guilt by the court of law.
  8. To be ‘charged’ with a crime is what comes before a conviction. To be ‘convicted’ of a crime comes after being charged and found guilty of committing a crime.
  9. Being ‘charged’ with a crime does not hinder a person from pursuing any form of employment. Being ‘convicted’, however, could mean that there would be restrictions on certain job opportunities.
  10. A person charged with a crime is called an ‘alleged offender’ while a person convicted of a crime is called an ‘offender’.


While to be charged or to be convicted have similar meanings, the ramifications as we have seen are very far off from each other. Being charged is an alleged accusation of a crime that could or could not mean that the person is guilty whereas being convicted means that the person is guilty and is an offender. The difference, in essence, lies in the outcome. If proven guilty, it is conviction and if still awaiting the verdict, it is only being charged. Now that that is abundantly clear, one can now go back to enjoying the legal dramas with lesser doubts. If not anything, the attorney will still be handsome, the murderer will still be creepy and the crime will still be intriguing.  


  1. https://www.bostondefenselaw.com/what-is-the-difference-between-being-charged-and-being-convicted/
  2. https://www.askthelawyers.com/read-article/is-a-charge-the-same-as-a-conviction



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"Difference Between Charged and Convicted." Diffzy.com, 2023. Sat. 25 Nov. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-charged-and-convicted-121>.

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