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What is an Acquiescence?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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In legal terms, acquiescence refers to accepting something without making a protest. Depending on the situation, the lack of objection at the time may mean that someone does not have legal recourse to correct the situation later, because it will be argued that something should have been said at the time if there was an issue. It is important for people to be aware of situations in which acquiescence can affect them, and to take steps to avoid being deprived of legal rights as a result of failing to object.

Acquiescence is characterized by passive consent. If people believe that something is not appropriate or it trespasses on their rights and they fail to speak up or to move to stop the person doing the infringing, their silence is considered a form of consent in some legal situations. For this reason, people are often advised to lodge an objection even if they allow someone to do something, establishing for the record that something was done against their objections.

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In a situation known as mutual acquiescence, people reach a state of mutual passive permission. This most commonly occurs in the instance of boundary disputes between two properties. If two property owners live side by side and regard a fence as a property boundary for an extended period of time when the boundary is in fact somewhere else, it may be argued that the boundary has changed as a result of mutual acquiescence. This is not the same thing as adverse possession, in which one property owner tries to claim property rights by knowingly moving a fence or similar item to change another property owner's perception of the boundary.

This is primarily a concern in civil cases. In criminal cases, silence on the part of the victim does not deprive the victim of future legal rights. Part of the reason for this is that criminal cases are also regarded in many regions of the world as crimes against society, not just individual victims, and are tried differently, with the government filing charges against the accused, rather than one citizen filing suit against another. Civil cases are matters between individuals, and thus it is possible for someone to lose an opportunity for legal redress through acquiescence.

Thus, in an example like a company failing to aggressively defend its copyright early on, the company may lose its rights in civil court under the argument that the lack of early protest constituted acquiescence.

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