WHAT IS DOUBLE JEOPARDY?
Under the 5th Amendment to the Constitution, no person shall be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb. Although the language may be a bit dated, this provision of the 5th Amendment prevents the government from getting two bites at the apple – prosecuting an individual for the same crime twice.
The double jeopardy clause in the 5th Amendment is an important Constitutional right for individuals who are charged with a crime. Specifically, it prevents the government from placing an individual in jeopardy – the risk of criminal prosecution – twice. Historically, back when the Founding Fathers were writing the Constitution, the Founding Fathers wanted to prevent abuses of the criminal justice system due to the British regularly charging people with the same crimes repeatedly. In essence, the double jeopardy clause gives the government only one shot at a criminal conviction.
When Does Double Jeopardy Apply?
Although the double jeopardy clause is in every defendant’s best interest, there are only certain situations where the double jeopardy clause applies:
- Prosecution for an offense after being previously convicted of that same charge;
- Prosecution for an offense after being acquitted of that same charge; or
- Being punished again for a previous conviction;
If any of these situations occurs, the defendant can use the double jeopardy clause as a defense against the charges. Additionally, the double jeopardy clause only applies in criminal charges, not civil charges.
Double Jeopardy Limitations
Although the double jeopardy clause seems pretty powerful, it does have its limitations. First, the double jeopardy clause only protects individuals from being charged with the same crime. Typically, in most criminal matters, even if a defendant is found not guilty for one crime, the prosecutors could then charge the defendant with a lesser or slightly different crime, thus sidestepping any double jeopardy defenses. Additionally, the double jeopardy clause only protects individuals from being charged with the same crime twice by the same sovereign government. This means that a defendant could be charged, convicted, and punished for the same crime by both the Federal and state governments.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney that can help zealously defend your case in either state or Federal court. Contact Us at Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation on your case.