Double Jeopardy – 5th Amendment

The 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution states, “No person shall be …subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb…” 

This means that a person cannot be prosecuted for the same crime twice.  Additionally, double jeopardy rights prevent an individual from being subject to being twice punished for the same offense.  In short and simply stated, a person cannot be prosecuted or punished twice for the same crime.  

Double jeopardy protections extend to state courts through the 14th Amendment.  extended this right to cases in all state courts.  The United States Supreme Court has further determined that the right against double jeopardy is not limited to capital crimes and corporeal (i.e. physical) punishment, but also extends to all felonies, all misdemeanors and all juvenile delinquency adjudications.  

If a criminal trial results in a verdict, either by acquittal or conviction, double jeopardy precludes a second trial on that very same offense.  This does not apply when the jury does not reach a verdict.  Should there be a mis-trial or hung-jury, the government may, at its discretion, re-try that person on the same offense.

Furthermore, the prohibition against double jeopardy does not arise where a criminal proceeding, and either a civil proceeding or administrative proceeding result from the same instance or set of factual circumstances.  

Courts have distinguished between criminal proceedings, on one hand, and either civil or administrative proceedings on the other.  Criminal proceedings are both punitive in nature and seek to deter future crimes.  Civil proceedings seek to compensate individuals for financial losses they have sustained. Administrative proceedings provide remedial decisions to regulate that specific area under that agencies control.

For example, criminal charges may be filed against a person for murder, and subsequent civil charges may be filed for wrongful death. As another example, should an individual be suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, that person likely will be subject to both criminal charges and an administrative hearing conducted by the Department of Motor Vehicles concerning revocation of that person’s drivers license.   Neither instance constitutes a legitimate claim of double jeopardy.

In addition to the exceptions regarding related civil or administrative proceedings, double jeopardy issues can become quite complicated in many situations.  Though it may appear straightforward on its face, even determining whether the same crime is charged twice can be quite contentious.  The same is true for sentencing.  

And there are countless other complications that are addressed frequently in both state and federal case-law.  A double jeopardy finding will preclude prosecution so if there is any possible issue, it should be addressed. 

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