What is Double Jeopardy?

According to the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, “No person shall be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This guarantee is important because it prevents prosecutors from continually prosecuting until they come up with a conviction. Double Jeopardy prevents being prosecuted twice for the same offense.

Jeopardy begins when someone is charged with a crime. Here are the important stages to be aware of:

  • When Jury is sworn.
  • When first witness is sworn.
  • When court first hears evidence (for juvenile proceedings).
  • When a plea is excepted as an agreement between the defendant and prosecutor.

When the defendant is found innocent, jeopardy ends. The government cannot detain them for additional court proceedings. Therefore, it ends when:

  • An acquittal.
  • Trial court judge grants a dismissal.
  • Post-conviction appeal is a success.

Double Jeopardy is one of the oldest legal concepts dating back to 355 B.C. The Romans codified this principle that “the law forbids the same man to be tried twice on the same issue.

The Courts can bring further criminal action against someone as long as it is not for the same offense. For example, an individual who has stolen a car to facilitate abduction can be prosecuted and receive separate punishments for auto theft, kidnapping, attempted rape etc.

To learn more about Double Jeopardy, visit Legal Dictionary or FindLaw.

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