Double Jeopardy Definition

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 What Does the Term "Double Jeopardy" Mean?

In criminal law, the concept of double jeopardy is derived from the 5th Amendment to the Constitution. In essence, regulations against double jeopardy prevent someone from receiving the same punishment twice for the same crimes.

For instance, a person cannot be tried for the same crime again if they have already been tried and found guilty of it. They may still face charges for other offenses down the road, though.

The Double Jeopardy Clause Exemptions

As long as the components of each offense are distinct, a person may be tried twice using the same evidence.

Double jeopardy is not violated when different jurisdictions accuse the same person of the same crime based on the same facts. For instance, if any component of the defendant’s activity violated both federal and state laws, both the federal and state governments may pursue the same defendant for the same crime.

Only one criminal prosecution based on the same facts and crime is prohibited under double jeopardy. Therefore, a civil lawsuit may still be filed even if a defendant is found not guilty in a criminal case.


  • If a person is found not guilty of the burglary that was allegedly committed at 1234 Green Street on January 1, 2000, they cannot be tried again for the same crime at the same address on the same day.
  • The defendant may still be tried for allegedly selling cocaine to John at 1234 Green Street on January 1, 2000, even if Bill was the intended customer of the alleged transaction for which the defendant was convicted and found not guilty. Each time cocaine is sold, a different act and offense are committed, and each can be tried separately without breaking the prohibition against double jeopardy.

When Is Double Jeopardy In Effect?

Only criminal cases are subject to double jeopardy; civil proceedings are not. Only when the government has put the defendant “in peril” may the defendant make use of the Fifth Amendment’s double jeopardy provision. When the judge swears in the jury, double jeopardy will become applicable.

Suppose the defendant has already been found guilty or found not guilty of the accusation. In that case, double jeopardy will be in effect, and the government cannot retry the defendant for the same crime or a lesser felony that was merged into the original offense.

For instance, because larceny is a lower crime than robbery, the prosecution cannot retry the defendant for the same incident if they were cleared of the accusations of robbery.

When Is Double Jeopardy Inapplicable?

The following scenarios do not involve double jeopardy:

  • Double jeopardy does not necessarily prevent the government from bringing charges against the defendant if the case is dismissed. The defendant may be retried for the same offense if the case was dismissed due to a “hung jury” or “mistrial” since it did not finish on the “merits” but rather a procedural issue.
  • Double jeopardy does not stop a different sovereign from prosecuting the defendant for the same offense, either. For instance, the federal government may still be able to prosecute the defendant even if the state cannot.
  • Several Offenses: Double jeopardy only shields a defendant from prosecution for one crime; it does not stop the government from charging the defendant with multiple offenses for the same crime.
  • The prosecution dropped the charges: The prosecution may reopen the case with the same charges since “jeopardy” has not been attached in situations where the defendant has been charged, but the prosecution decides to withdraw the charges before formal proceedings have begun.

A Criminal Retrial: What Is It?

When the court determines that certain aspects of the criminal case require further examination, a criminal retrial is held. This typically happens if the prior trial had significant legal or factual errors. Misconduct by the attorney is another reason for a new trial. For there to be a retrial, the error in the case must typically have led to the judgment being overturned.

Courts rarely order criminal retrials, primarily because there is a chance that the defendant’s protection from double jeopardy will be breached. A retrial will typically not be ordered after a person is declared not guilty unless important legal concerns are at stake, such as a crucial witness becoming ill.

When Can a Criminal Retrial be Requested?

Most criminal cases are never tried; of those that are, only a small portion are retried. If there were significant mistakes made during the initial trial that led to an unfair or incorrect outcome, the case might be retried. For instance, if there is compelling new evidence of innocence, the case might be retried.

No one may be tried twice for the same offense, as stipulated by the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment. If a person is accused of a crime, declared innocent, and then accused of the same crime again, this section shall take effect. This means that unless there was a serious error in the administration of justice, the prosecutor is typically unable to ask for a new trial. We’ll talk more about the Double Jeopardy Clause later.

After a guilty verdict, the defendant may submit a motion for a new trial. If the judge rejects the motion, the defendant may appeal the decision and request a fresh trial from a higher court. In the interest of justice, a fresh trial might be ordered in the situations listed below:

  • Attorney misconduct;
  • A “hopelessly deadlocked” jury, which meant that they were unable to reach a consensus on whether a defendant was guilty or not;
  • A prejudicial error that unfairly influenced the outcome of the case, such as bias or misbehavior on the part of the jury;
  • An unforeseen and severe event that renders the trial unfair or renders it difficult to achieve a just conclusion. An illustration of this might be the absence of a crucial witness, a lawyer’s illness, or jury misconduct;
  • Evidence that has just come to light; or the judge’s refusal to step aside when a conflict of interest arose.

What is a Criminal Appeal?

In a criminal appeal, the defendant asks the judge to reconsider particular circumstances that led to their conviction. Since the defendant is the one asking for a second review, appeals are typically not seen as breaking double jeopardy laws.

Additionally, while only one or a few particular points are considered in an appeal, it should be noted that this is not the same as a full retrial. Additionally, in an appeal, only legal concerns are examined; the facts from the lower court are left in place and are not re-argued.

Do I Need Legal Advice Regarding Double Jeopardy Laws?

Laws pertaining to double jeopardy can be challenging and frequently entangled with other legal concerns like appeals or retrials. When it comes to double jeopardy rules and other criminal law issues, you could need the counsel of a criminal attorney. It’s crucial that you are aware of your rights and that you take steps to defend them. Your lawyer can help you with your case, give you recommendations, and represent you in court if necessary.

You do not have to fight your legal battles alone. Use LegalMatch to find the right attorney for your needs today.

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