Double Jeopardy

A clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents defendants from facing prosecution more than once for the same criminal offense. This clause, known as Double Jeopardy, also protects defendants from receiving more than one punishment for a single offense.

There are exceptions to the law, and a criminal defense lawyer can explain why this law might not apply in a criminal case. The concept of double jeopardy can be very complicated. To learn more about your specific case, simply fill out our free online evaluation form or call 877-445-1059 to connect with a defense attorney in your area.

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The right against double jeopardy, or right against former jeopardy, is also provided by most state constitutions. In states where the constitutions do not spell out the right against double jeopardy, criminal defendants are still protected under the Fifth Amendment.

Reasons for Double Jeopardy Rights

There are five major reasons why the U.S. Constitution provides double jeopardy protections:

  • To prevent the government from using its superior resources to wear down and erroneously convict innocent people;
  • To protect individuals from the emotional, financial and social repercussions of multiple prosecutions;
  • To preserve the integrity of the criminal process;
  • To restrict the prosecution’s power to bring criminal charges against a defendant; and
  • To remove judicial authority to impose multiple punishments that are not otherwise restricted by law.

When are Double Jeopardy Rights Enforced?

It is important to understand when the right against double jeopardy takes effect.

Action taken by the government before this right attaches to a case will not prevent criminal proceedings against the same person for the same offense later.

After the right against double jeopardy is enforced in a case, a defendant is fully protected against multiple prosecutions and punishments for the same single offense.

The U. S. Supreme Court has held that jeopardy attaches to a case during a jury trial when the jury is sworn. During criminal trials without a jury, jeopardy attaches when the first witness is sworn. In juvenile delinquency adjudications, jeopardy attaches when the court first hears evidence. If the defendant or juvenile defendant accepts a plea bargain, jeopardy does not attach until the court accepts the plea deal.

When Does Jeopardy End?

After jeopardy ends in a criminal case, the government cannot detain a defendant for additional court proceedings for the same offense without raising questions about double jeopardy.

Jeopardy terminates:

  • After acquittal
  • After dismissal
  • After a mistrial
  • On appeal after conviction

Continuing Jeopardy

If jeopardy does not terminate at the end of a criminal proceeding, jeopardy is considered “continuing.” In cases of continuing jeopardy, further criminal proceedings are permitted.

Continuing jeopardy generally applies when a trial results in a mistrial, or is otherwise dismissed for reasons that do not involve the guilt or innocence of the defendant, such as due to a violation of the Fourth Amendment right to a speedy trial. Continuing jeopardy can be a complicated concept and determining when double jeopardy terminates can be difficult. Consider speaking with a criminal defense lawyer for advice on when double jeopardy and continuing jeopardy apply to a case.

Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been arrested or accused of a crime, a criminal defense lawyer can work to ensure that your constitutional and criminal defense rights are protected.

Find a local criminal defense attorney today, fill out our free online evaluation form or call us at 877-445-1059. Schedule a free, no obligation consultation with a lawyer to learn more about your rights during criminal proceedings.

The above summary of double jeopardy protections is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. Laws may have changed since our last update. For the latest information on these laws and penalties, speak to a criminal defense attorney in your area.