Double Jeopardy And Exceptions To The Rule

You cannot be charged with the same crime twice. That is the basic rule of double jeopardy. This rule came about because of the unfairness of charging someone until they were finally found guilty of a crime. For instance, if a person were charged with murder and found not guilty at a trial, they cannot be charged again for that same murder. However, as with all things, exceptions exist. 

Double Jeopardy Situations

In criminal law, double jeopardy applies to three distinct situations:

  1. Retrial after acquittal: If a defendant is acquitted (found not guilty) of a criminal offense, they cannot be retried for that same offense. This means that the government cannot appeal an acquittal or bring a new trial on the same charges.
  2. Retrial after conviction: If a defendant is convicted of a criminal offense and the conviction is final (meaning all appeals have been exhausted or waived), they cannot be retried for the same offense.
  3. Multiple punishments: A defendant cannot be punished multiple times for the same offense. This means that if a defendant is sentenced for a particular crime, they cannot be sentenced again for the same offense, even if the original sentence was overturned or modified.

Exceptions to the Double Jeopardy Rule

There are some exceptions to the double jeopardy rule, which may allow a defendant to be retried or punished again for the same offense. These exceptions include:

  • Mistrials: If a trial is terminated before a verdict is reached due to a procedural error, such as a hung jury or prosecutorial misconduct, the defendant may be retried.
  • Appeals: If a conviction is reversed on appeal, the defendant may be retried for the same offense.
  • Different offenses: If the defendant committed multiple offenses, they may be tried and punished for each offense separately. 
  • Civil and criminal cases: Double jeopardy only applies to criminal cases. A defendant may be sued in a civil case for the same conduct that gave rise to criminal charges.
  • Sovereign immunity: In some cases, the government may be immune from double jeopardy, allowing it to bring a new prosecution or punishment against a defendant.

It is important to note that the double jeopardy rule applies only to the same sovereign. This means that if a defendant is prosecuted by a state government, they may be retried by the federal government for the same offense, and vice versa. 

Contact a local law firm, such as Cohen Law Offices, LLC, to learn more.