Do you know what double jeopardy is? It wouldn’t be a complete surprise
if most people said double jeopardy was the second round of questions
in the famous trivia game show hosted by Alex Trebek. While they wouldn’t
be incorrect, the concept of double jeopardy in the legal context means
something completely different. Double jeopardy refers to the idea of being
tried for a crime but later put on trial again for the same crime.
Protections Under the Fifth Amendment
The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution is the source of
many individual rights. The text of the amendment reads:
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous
crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in
cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in
actual service in time of War or public danger;
nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in
jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,
nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of
law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just
compensation.” (emphasis added)
All ten amendments in the original Bill of Rights are ways of guaranteeing
individual freedoms by restricting government power and authority. The
Fifth Amendment covers rights and procedures that are important for promoting
justice in criminal proceedings, which many courts consider essential
components of due process:
Grand Jury Clause
Double Jeopardy Clause
Self Incrimination Clause
Due Process Clause
What Does “Same Offense” Mean?
The Supreme Court has interpreted the phrase “same offense”
to mean crimes where the same evidence was necessary for proving both
offenses. For example, the Double Jeopardy Clause can prevent someone
from undergoing separate criminal proceedings for a crime involving multiple
victims. Imagine that the defendant was accused of assaulting several
people at a party, but acquitted in a trial for assaulting only one of
the victims because the jury believed the defendant’s alibi. The
government cannot subsequently charge them for assaulting a different
victim from the party.
However, if the defendant’s alleged conduct is considered to be a
crime in different jurisdictions—such as crimes under both federal
and state law—the Double Jeopardy Clause doesn’t apply. This
is because courts hold that sovereign states have an interest in prosecuting
offenses they prohibit under their own laws—a concept known as the
“separate sovereigns” doctrine.
The Separate Sovereigns Doctrine and
Gamble v. United States
This past June, the U.S. Supreme Court made a definitive ruling about the
application of the separate sovereigns doctrine in
Gamble v. United States. In the
Gamble case, the defendant was tried and sentenced under the laws of Alabama for
possessing a gun as a convicted felon. The federal government subsequently
decided to prosecute the defendant under federal law as well.
In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the separate sovereigns doctrine,
reasoning that sovereign states have distinct sets of laws. Thus, even
though both states prohibit the same conduct as a crime, those prohibitions
are not the “same offence” under the Double Jeopardy Clause.
Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich Is Dedicated to Protecting Your Rights
If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense, you should seek legal
representation from an attorney at Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich.
With years of experience in matters ranging from family law to criminal
defense, you can count on our team of skilled lawyers to zealously advocate
for the protection of your constitutional due process rights.
To schedule an appointment for a consultation about your case, call our
office at (951) 687-6003 or
contact us online today.