If you were previously accused of a crime and found innocent or acquitted, then you need to know about double jeopardy. Perhaps someone claims that they looked at the evidence in a new way and can change the way they prosecute the case, or another thinks that you just need to be tried a second time. In either case, you won’t need to worry, because double jeopardy laws protect you.
Double jeopardy is a protection that states that you won’t be put in jeopardy twice for the same offense. That means that, if the evidence is all the same, you can’t be tried a second time for the same crime. The double jeopardy clause is in the Fifth Amendment, meaning that you have a constitutional right not to be tried twice in criminal court for your alleged crime.
Why is double jeopardy protection so important?
It’s important for a few reasons. These include:
- Protecting individuals against emotional, social and financial consequences of trials or successive prosecutions
- Restricting prosecutorial discretion
- Preserving the finality of proceedings and the findings of a judge or the prosecution and defense
- Preventing the government from prosecuting innocent persons multiple times using superior resources
- Eliminating the risk of cumulative punishments as a result of judicial discretion
If a state has its own protections against double jeopardy, then it must abide by the Constitution and then may provide more protections but not less.
Keep in mind that not all types of cases qualify for double jeopardy protection. Usually, this protection is used only when the person risks going to jail or other penalties, but the Supreme Court did extend its function to juvenile delinquency adjudications, misdemeanors and felonies.
Jeopardy begins when a jury is sworn into a case. If there is no jury, then it begins when the first witness reaches the stand and is sworn in. If you take a plea deal, jeopardy begins as soon as the court accepts the plea deal.
There are also times when jeopardy may terminate. This includes after the trial and a verdict of an acquittal, after a mistrial, on appeal after a conviction and after the court dismisses.
Double jeopardy protections are there for your safety. While they don’t always apply to every situation, they likely apply if you’re facing white collar crime allegations or other criminal charges. Without new evidence, there should be no reason to face charges for the same crime.