What Is Double Jeopardy?
Double jeopardy is a US constitutional clause that prohibits the state from trying an individual for a crime more than once. This means that if the defendant was acquitted or found not guilty by the court, then the government cannot attempt to prosecute the defendant for that crime once again. Furthermore, the government is not allowed to subject a defendant to multiple punishments or a double conviction for the same act of crime. There are many reasons for why this is a constitutional principle; however, some of the most important include that double jeopardy increases the likelihood of an innocent person being found guilty for a crime they did not commit.
Double jeopardy can be attached once either the jury has been sworn in or the first witness is sworn in for cases without a jury. Furthermore, regardless of whether the prosecution thinks an acquittal was the wrong call, they cannot appeal that decision, since double jeopardy would attach to the new trial. On the other hand, if the defendant is convicted for a crime, the prosecution cannot attempt to convict them again for that crime for whatever reason.
When Double Jeopardy Does Not Apply?
Double jeopardy does not attach in some situations, making it slightly more complicated in understanding it as a legal defense. It only attaches to criminal trials, which allows for an individual to be convicted of a crime in both a criminal and civil case. Furthermore, while an individual must not be subjected to multiple trials, that does not mean that they cannot be convicted ofseparate counts within a single trial. Moreover, double jeopardy only protects defendants from being prosecuted for the same crime from the same sovereign. Therefore, a state can convict an individual of a crime and then that individual can be convicted for the same crime at the federal level, and vice versa.
As is the case for all trials, having a lawyer to represent the defendant can ensure a proper understanding and interpretation of the law. If a case is attached with double jeopardy, a lawyer can best argue and defend the accused. Those accused of a crime should always speak with a lawyer in order to concretely comprehend their case.