When you are a suspect in a criminal investigation or charged with committing a crime, you have important protections under the United States Constitution. One right that you have under the Fifth Amendment is the protection against double jeopardy. This protects you from being charged for the same offense in the same jurisdiction twice. It can protect you in the following ways:
- Prohibits a second prosecution for the same offense after a conviction
- Protects against a second prosecution for the same offense after an acquittal
- Prohibits more than one punishment for the same offense
What Double Jeopardy Can—and Can’t—Do for You
Like other constitutional protections, your rights under the double jeopardy clause is complicated and subject to many court case decisions. This right only applies at a certain stage in your criminal case. In a jury trial, your rights begin once the jury is sworn in. If your trial is in front of a judge, your protections begin when the first witness is sworn in and begins to testify. Here are some key points on how double jeopardy can and cannot protect you:
- Same jurisdiction. Double jeopardy only protects against a second prosecution in the same jurisdiction. This means that you can still be charged with a federal crime after you are found not guilty in a state criminal case.
- Civil lawsuit. You only have double jeopardy protections in criminal cases. You can still be sued in a civil lawsuit for compensation by the victim of your criminal act.
- Mistrial. The double jeopardy protections do not apply if the judge declares a mistrial because the jury is a “hung” jury that is unable to reach a verdict.
- Charges dropped. If the charges are dropped by the prosecutor before they go to official proceedings, he may have the right to refile the charges against you.
- Multiple offenses. While you cannot be charged with the same crime twice, this does not prevent the prosecutor from filing charges for more than one offense that was committed during the commission of the crime.
While your double jeopardy protections are not unlimited, they do give you protection from being prosecuted again for the same offense in some situations. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help ensure that you receive the constitutional protections that you have. To learn how we can help, call our office to schedule your free consultation today.