What is double jeopardy?

The double jeopardy clause, provided in both federal and state statutes, protects defendants from being punished twice for the same crime. It is a constitutional right. Used in appropriate cases, double jeopardy can be an effective procedural defense.

If you are being charged with a crime – especially one that you were already previously charged with – contact Goldman Wetzel and speak to one of our defense lawyers about your rights. We represent defendants who have been charged with all types of offenses in Florida and federal court. Call us at 727-828-3900 for assistance.

What does double jeopardy mean?

The Double Jeopardy clause in The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides: “No person shall be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This applies to states, as well. The Florida Constitution, Article 1, section 9 provides: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, or be twice put in jeopardy for the same offense.”

There are several protections these clauses provide defendants. Most notably, double jeopardy prohibits states from prosecuting and punishing a defendant for the same offense after an acquittal or a conviction.

In what kinds of cases is double jeopardy applicable?

Double jeopardy applies to all kinds of criminal cases in which punishment is the main objective. While the wording in the clause “life and limb” seems to limit the application to capital crimes with corporal punishment, this isn’t the case. The Supreme Court established that double jeopardy protections extend to all types of crimes, regardless of the potential punishments. This includes both misdemeanors and felonies, and cases tried at both the state and federal levels.

Under double jeopardy protections, you cannot:

  • Be prosecuted twice for the same offense;
  • Be prosecuted for a greater offense if you were previously prosecuted for a lesser offense (For example, if you were convicted of battery, you cannot later be prosecuted for an aggravated battery that arose out of the same episode.); or
  • Be convicted and punished for a lesser offense if you were convicted of a greater offense. (For example, if you were convicted of drug trafficking, you cannot be later prosecuted for sale or possession that arose from the same episode.)

Note, double jeopardy only applies to criminal cases, not civil. You can be brought to criminal and civil court for the same offense. A historic case in point: O. J. Simpson. He was acquitted of criminal murder charges, but the victims’ family members later filed civil cases against Simpson (and won).

Free Consultation with a Criminal Defense Lawyer in St. Petersburg

If you are facing criminal charges, it is vital to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible about your case and possible defenses. Double jeopardy may be applicable in some cases, as may other defenses, depending on the circumstances. Contact Goldman Wetzel in St. Petersburg to speak with a defense attorney today: 727-828-3900.