What Is The Double Jeopardy Law?
Double jeopardy is the legal concept of someone being tried twice for the same crime. In the United States, the Fifth Amendment explicitly prohibits this. The relevant passage states:
…nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb…
What this means in practical terms is that the government cannot prosecute you more than once for the same crime. This applies at both the state and federal level. However, certain exceptions exist that may allow prosecutors to get around this law.
How Double Jeopardy Actually Works
In the context of criminal law, the term jeopardy is used to describe the risk of punishment resulting from criminal prosecution. In other words, if you are accused of a crime and go to trial, you are in jeopardy of going to jail.
What the Fifth Amendment says is that, regardless of if you are convicted or found innocent, you cannot be tried for the same crime again. This prevents the government from trying you for the same crime multiple times in the hopes of getting the verdict they want.
The double jeopardy law also protects you from receiving multiple punishments for the same offense.
It’s also important to know that double jeopardy prevents prosecutors from bringing charges a second time if they discover new evidence after you’ve received a verdict at trial.
Double Jeopardy Law Exceptions
Double jeopardy has some limitations. First of all, it applies to criminal cases only. Second, it doesn’t protect you from being prosecuted for different offenses.
Criminal vs Civil Charges
Even if you go to trial and are found innocent of committing a crime, the double jeopardy law does not prevent you from being sued in civil court. Many defendants accused of a crime and found innocent at their criminal trial are later found guilty in civil cases against them.
This is pretty straightforward. For example, let’s say you’ve been accused of robbing a convenience store and assaulting the clerk. If you go to trial and are found innocent of robbing the store, double jeopardy does not protect you from being found guilty of assault. Even though it’s the same event, there are multiple offenses involved.
Hire A Criminal Defense Attorney
The best way to protect yourself from any criminal charges is to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney. A good criminal lawyer will know if the double jeopardy law applies to your case or not.
At Quinnan Law, we’ve successfully defended dozens of clients against unfair and overzealous criminal charges. To learn more about how we can help you win your case, please contact our offices today for a free consultation.
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