No, right? While most of us are generally familiar with the concept of double jeopardy — the legal precept that prohibits multiple prosecutions or punishments for the same crime — not all of us know the particular ins and outs.
For example, can you be charged with both state and federal crimes for the same incident? And if you were granted a presidential pardon, could a state prosecute you later? These later questions will be decided by the Supreme Court next term, so here’s a look a double jeopardy generally, and the new Supreme Court case specifically.
The Fifth Amendment states, “No person shall … be subject for the same offence [sic] to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” Commonly referred to as the Double Jeopardy Clause, this provision prohibits both federal and state governments from prosecuting a person for a single offense on more than one occasion, or imposing more than one punishment for the same crime.
Exactly what constitutes the same offense under double jeopardy rules, to which legal proceedings the rules apply, and exactly when in those proceedings double jeopardy “attaches” have all been the subject of Supreme Court cases, and the limits of double jeopardy protection can depend on the particulars of your case.
There are some exceptions to double jeopardy, most notably the “separate sovereign” or “dual-sovereign” doctrine, which allows separate prosecutions from multiple states or from both state and federal prosecutors. The idea behind the exception is that each sovereign has an interest in promoting peace and dignity within its boundaries, and therefore state and federal governments are currently permitted to prosecute someone for the same behavior even after another has already done so.
However, a recent challenge from a man who was charged with and pleaded guilty to both state and federal firearms charges has the Supreme Court reconsidering that exception. “If the court overrules its prior precedent,” according to CNN’s Supreme Court analyst Stephen Vladeck, “it could make it more difficult for a state to try someone who has been pardoned by the federal government if trial proceedings had already begun for the federal offense.” Given Trump’s assertions about the power of the presidential pardon, the ongoing investigations into connections between Russia and the Trump campaign, and the current makeup of the Supreme Court, any decision could have a very real and immediate impact.
- Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw’s Lawyer Directory)
- The Concept of Double Jeopardy: Background (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law)
- Pressing Criminal Charges: What Is It and Who Does It? (FindLaw Blotter)
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