Double Jeopardy. No, it is not a famous American television game show. However, because of this clause, many people accused of criminal activity may be in luck. The Fifth Amendment of the U. S. Constitution introduces double jeopardy, which is protection for an individual against standing trial or facing criminal punishment for the same criminal offense more than once. Once a person has been acquitted, previously convicted, or punished for a specific offense they will not be prosecuted again for that crime or at least not in that jurisdiction. While laws vary from state to state, several states follow this same guideline once am individual appears in court. The basis of protection through the double jeopardy clause is not only for the defendant, but also prosecution. There are several reasons for double jeopardy, such as:
- To avoid giving the government the opportunity to wrongfully convict someone
- Preventing the possibility of strenuous financial and emotional stress to the suspected party
- To respect the way court proceedings are ran and the final decisions made in court, amongst several things.
Not all cases are eligible to be protected by the double jeopardy clause. Like several laws in the U.S. Constitution, there are obscurities that will permit prosecution to attempt to convict the defendant for subsequent proceedings. The Fifth Amendment proposes that this advantage is only extended to capital crimes. However, due to a Supreme Court decision, the double jeopardy protection clause is extended from juvenile charges, misdemeanors, and even felonies no matter the legal consequences typically prearranged for the crime. It is important to learn when the jeopardy would apply to your case because if it has not applied, you are not protected against future proceedings against you, regardless of if you were eligible. When there is a jury trial pursuant to your case, jeopardy applies when the jury is sworn. Without a jury, it applies when the first witness is sworn. When a plea is entered, it will apply once the court has accepted the plea, which has been entered.
There are several tests that must be taken to decide if a defendant may or may not be accused of the same offense. Based on the evidence, litigation, and whether or not it has been brought in front of a judge, amongst several things.
Because double jeopardy is so tricky, it is wise to speak with a skilled Decatur criminal law lawyer if you believe you or someone you knows Fifth Amendment rights have been violated. A knowledgeable attorney will be able to educate you, as well as defend you in the courtroom if it ever came to that again.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at Andrew R. Lynch, P.C. for their insight into criminal defense and double jeopardy.