What Is the Double Jeopardy Law and How Does it Apply to My Seattle Criminal Case?

Being accused of a crime is not the same as being guilty of a crime. The state must prove every legal element required for the crime for a defendant to be found guilty. In many cases, there may be one or more legal defenses that apply in your case. Working with a Seattle criminal defense attorney to explore defenses to criminal charges, including the defense of double jeopardy, is the best way to increase your chances of being acquitted of criminal charges.

What Is Double Jeopardy?

Double jeopardy is a protection granted in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Fifth Amendment is known more for giving us due process and the right against self-incrimination. 

The Fifth Amendment does not refer to “double” jeopardy. The Amendment states that you cannot be placed in “jeopardy of life or limb” twice for the same offense. What that means is that you cannot be tried for the same crime more than once. If a jury or judge finds you not guilty of a crime, the government cannot attempt to try you for the same crime again. The clause also prevents the government from appealing a not guilty verdict in criminal court.

The double jeopardy clause also protects you from being tried for crimes that would include proving the same elements of the crime for which you were found not guilty. In other words, the government cannot try you for a lesser crime that involves the same facts and legal elements of the crime you were acquitted of at trial.

How Does Double Jeopardy Affect My Criminal Case?

There are instances in which you could face federal and state trials for the same conduct. You could also face trials in different states for the same conduct. Therefore, double jeopardy may not protect you in all cases, if the alleged acts took place in multiple states or both federal and state courts have jurisdiction.

Also, if a grand jury decides not to file charges, you could later be charged with a crime based on the same facts and circumstances. You have to be charged with a crime and a jury has to be empaneled against you for double jeopardy to attach to your case. At that point, the prosecutor cannot dismiss the charges and decide to file charges based on the same conduct at a later time.

Generally, double jeopardy does not attach if a jury cannot return a verdict. If the judge declares a mistrial because of a “hung” jury, the prosecutor can usually pursue another trial without worries of double jeopardy. If the judge grants a mistrial for other reasons based on the defendant’s request or the defendant does not object to the mistrial, double jeopardy may not apply. 

Contact a Seattle Criminal Defense Attorney for More Information 

Double jeopardy is often misunderstood. Many people assume that double jeopardy attaches to every case as soon as they are arrested. This assumption is not correct. You should seek legal counsel to determine if double jeopardy can be used as a valid defense in your case.

If you are facing criminal charges, you need legal advice now. Contact Jennifer today to discuss your case. She will aggressively investigate the matter to develop a defense strategy based on the facts and circumstances of your case. 

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights, and some general information on various aspects of criminal law. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.