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What is double jeopardy?

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2017 | Criminal Law

If you have watched movies, TV or listened to the radio, then it is likely that you have heard the term double jeopardy in reference to criminal trials. Double jeopardy is part of a clause written into the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution that protects you from being tried twice for the same crime. There are a few exemptions to double jeopardy, and some states do not guarantee this right, although the Bill of Rights applies to all local and state governments, ensuring that all defendants get the same protection.

What are the reasons for double jeopardy?

Double jeopardy is used to protect defendants from the extreme stress on their financial, emotional and social resources when it comes to standing trial. It is also used to stop the government from using extensive resources to convict those who are innocent and to prevent prosecutorial discretion in the process of charging. Double jeopardy plays a big part in preserving the integrity and finality of criminal proceedings, which stops the government fighting to change verdicts it did not agree with or like, even though it was handed down by a jury.

When does double jeopardy start?

This concept is one of the most misunderstood in the entire criminal system. Once the jury is sworn in to a jury trial, the protection is put into place, or attached. If the defendant entered a plea instead of going to trial, double jeopardy attaches as soon as the plea is accepted by the court.

How does double jeopardy apply to my case?

Double jeopardy was written into the Constitution to protect defendants in criminal cases from being tried repeatedly for the same things. For example, if you were acquitted for a violent crime like murder, but the prosecutor wants to take another angle to obtain a different verdict, he or she is not allowed to charge you with the same crime for the same situation. Jeopardy does not protect you from being charged for a more serious crime committed with the lesser crime. For example, if you are acquitted of assault during the crime, you may still be tried for a more aggressive crime after the fact.

There are also certain exemptions or exceptions to the rule of double jeopardy, including discharge, quashing of earlier trial, different offense and technical errors. If you have been charged for a crime and want to make sure that you are protected after your trial or plea, you should seek the advice and help of a criminal defense attorney immediately.