The Constitution provides numerous protections that most citizens only know are vital once they need them. The 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects you from being tried, convicted of, or charged with the same crime twice. While it might seem straightforward, the prohibition is complicated, and guidelines exist for when the right applies. You require experienced Sacramento legal representation to enforce your protection if you face any criminal charges. Your attorney can also ensure the prosecution team has not violated your legal rights; a violation can result in charge dismissal.
An Overview of the Principle of Double Jeopardy in Golden State Law
The U.S. Constitution makes it unlawful for the government to subject a person to double jeopardy, meaning you cannot be prosecuted twice for a similar offense.
Under California law, PC 687, legal protection states: “No individual should receive a subsequent prosecution for criminal crimes for which they have been tried and acquitted or convicted.”
In simpler terms, this legal right assures that following an acquittal, you cannot be charged again for a similar offense, you cannot receive two convictions for a single crime, and there should be no repeated punishments for a single crime.
Due to the constitutional rights made available to you by the state and the U.S. Constitution, pleading double jeopardy could be a strong defense if you face prosecution in violation of that protection.
Double jeopardy is an element of criminal justice law prohibiting sustained attempts to sentence a person for similar alleged crimes. State prosecution teams have extensive resources and authority to bring charges against an individual. However, frequent attempts to prosecute a person might be interpreted as harassment, increasing the odds of an innocent individual receiving a conviction.
As with other laws, there have been legal revisions and clarifications of double jeopardy applications over the years, making it easier to understand when a double jeopardy defense is applicable.
Nevertheless, pleading double jeopardy in your case defense does not apply to all legal situations. For example, it does not prevent the prosecutor from pursuing driving under the influence (DUI) charges per Code 23152 if the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has already withdrawn your driving privileges.
When to Claim Double Jeopardy in Your Case Defense
The federal or state justice system cannot prosecute you for a single crime in specific circumstances. When this occurs, you are considered to have already been in jeopardy once, or that jeopardy attaches. Discussed below are different circumstances under which double jeopardy is a legal strategy:
At the Start of Your Trial, During the Court’s Swearing of the Trial Jury or Witnesses
You can utilize double jeopardy if you seek to demonstrate that you stood a subsequent trial for a similar offense. The court does not necessarily have to resolve the trial for this legal defense to apply. However, the case must have begun for the defense to work. Following the start of the trial, you would suffer jeopardy relating to the crimes for which you are facing prosecution. As a result, the prosecutor should not bring charges in a single accusation.
You can claim jeopardy during a bench hearing at jury selection and their swearing-in because jeopardy attaches following the swearing of the initial witness.
Suppose the prosecution uses case facts that resulted in your initial prosecution to bring new charges. In that case, you can claim jeopardy in your case defense to prevent a second prosecution for similar accusations.
Mistrial or Dismissal of a Jury Member without Your Consent
Unlawful dismissal of a jury member without your permission permits claiming jeopardy as your legal defense in a retrial. Nevertheless, some elements of legal necessity should apply to dismissing a juror. A California legal necessity occurs under the following circumstances:
- If a jury member is absent
- If a juror is sick or incapacitated
- The absence of a defendant’s defense lawyer, judge, or the accused
- The incapacity of the jury to agree on an issue
Upon Your Case Acquittal
Regardless of an erroneous decision, the prosecutor has no legal grounds to appeal an acquittal. Under those circumstances, you can claim double jeopardy as an appropriate defense to being charged with the same crime again.
Following a Case Dismissal
A case dismissal is another legal basis that enables you to claim double jeopardy as your defense. Nevertheless, not every case’s dismissal can allow double jeopardy as a defense.
Below are different types of discharge for which you can use a legal strategy:
When the Prosecution Discharges You to Become their Witness
If you face charges simultaneously with other defendants, the judge can decide to release you and make you a witness to the crime. The scenario is common when there is inadequate evidence in the case against you or your accomplice.
Under the following circumstances, double jeopardy is a powerful legal defense:
- In a California misdemeanor that has received a dismissal — A misdemeanor charge not filed on time permits you to claim double jeopardy in your defense. Nevertheless, if a felony is related to your misdemeanor offense in a similar allegation, pleading this legal right does not work.
- Subsequent dismissal of a California felony charge — You can plead double jeopardy as a defense if the court dismisses your charges after the statute of limitations has elapsed.
Like acquittals, being sentenced for a particular crime is a double-jeopardy legal strategy for a similar charge. It means that once the prosecution team finds you guilty, prosecuting you twice on that charge is illegal.
Jeopardy applies (in both circumstances) regardless of whether:
- You willingly plead no contest or guilty
- Your conviction was after your case’s resolution
After plea bargain negotiations, the prosecution could state that you will be found guilty of a lesser offense or lesser degree than what your original charge states. Upon agreeing to this reduced crime, the double jeopardy legal defense will become available in a subsequent trial on the underlying crime.
Retrial Following Case Appeal and Revocation
A double-jeopardy legal defense strategy is applicable in the scenarios below:
- Your conviction was after a trial.
- You filed an appeal against your conviction.
- The court allows your appeal, reverses the court’s judgment, and remands your case for a fresh trial.
- The prosecutor in your new trial prosecutes you for a greater crime than your previous charges.
Double jeopardy prohibits the prosecution from prosecuting you for a more severe crime in a new case than what you were charged with in the first trial. Additionally, it prohibits imposing a more severe penalty during a fresh trial.
Understanding Included Crimes
Double jeopardy becomes available if new criminal charges or involved crimes exist. It applies if a single act leads to other criminal crimes. Every offense in Golden State has specific facts that the prosecutor should approve.
An offense becomes included in another charge if it has the same elements as those in a different case. Under these circumstances, double jeopardy becomes an appropriate defense strategy for subsequent charges included in your original charges.
Circumstances When Claiming Double Jeopardy As a Case Defense is Not Applicable
While double jeopardy applies to various situations, it does not work in the circumstances discussed below:
Civil Cases Stemming from Similar Facts as a Criminal Case
Double jeopardy safeguards you against sustained endeavors at criminal charging. However, a prior court case does not hinder a subsequent prosecution, even if both cases might stem from similar events.
Criminal Before Trial Hearings
As addressed earlier, double jeopardy attaches to criminal proceedings when you are on trial. Hence, a criminal case before trial does not result in double jeopardy as a legal defense.
One Trial with Several Acquittals or Convictions
Claiming double jeopardy in your defense exists to safeguard against the brutality of several trials. Nevertheless, jeopardy does not apply to convictions, acquittals, or discharges of different charges in a similar trial.
Prison Disciplinary Hearings
Disciplinary measures imposed against inmates for violating prison regulations do not prohibit subsequent prosecution for a similar offense.
Revocation of Probation or Parole
The law does not consider a parole or probation revocation proceeding a second criminal proceeding because it adds to an original conviction. Hence, it cannot be a double-jeopardy case defense.
Double jeopardy will not hold in court proceedings unless a conviction is likely. If it is clear that the court has no legal authority to resolve the case, any conviction resulting from the court becomes null and void. The legal right cannot be attached to a court without jurisdiction over a matter. Hence, a jeopardy defense becomes unavailable in subsequent criminal proceedings.
Reversal Following Appeal or a New Trial
If you were found guilty but the judge later approved your petition for a fresh trial, or if the court reversed your verdict after appealing, your fresh trial is considered as if no original trial had occurred. Hence, double jeopardy does not apply during the fresh trial.
Department of Motor Vehicles Driver’s License Suspension in Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Criminal Cases
If the prosecutor charges you with drunk driving, vehicular manslaughter, or driving under the influence of drugs, the California DMV will pursue a license suspension.
Each person has a right to a DMV administrative hearing following a drunk driving arrest to contest whether the DMV should suspend their license. DMV hearings are known as Administrative Per Se (APS).
Nevertheless, jeopardy cannot hold on during your APS hearings. Hence, double jeopardy should not prohibit a subsequent prosecution, even when the DMV hearings resolution determines what to do with your driver’s license.
Prosecution by Federal or State Agencies for a Single Offense
States are deemed separate jurisdictions from the U.S. federal government. It means that states are extensively independent government authorities that have surrendered particular entitlements to America’s federal government.
Double jeopardy only arises from prosecutions of similar criminal offenses by a single jurisdiction. Therefore, a state can charge defendants for an offense for which they were prosecuted in federal court. Federal entities can also charge people with offenses that state jurisdictions charge them with. In the following circumstances, the defense of double jeopardy is unavailable:
Dismissal by Necessity
Double jeopardy would not prohibit a second prosecution if the court discharged your case due to a legal necessity.
What to Do If Your Constitutional Right is Violated
If the prosecution team has violated your constitutional right, it can significantly alter your case’s outcome. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to rectify the matter and achieve justice.
- Conduct your research — As previously discussed, many exemptions to the right against double jeopardy exist. If you are unfamiliar with the law, research to verify whether the prosecution violated your rights.
- Seek legal help — Contact an attorney if you need clarification or after confirming the law enforcers violated your rights. Your attorney can negotiate with the D.A., build a strong case against the individual(s) who violated your constitutional right, and defend you at trial.
- You can request a new trial or appeal —When law enforcers breach your legal right during a California criminal judicial process and the violation results in being tried more than once for one criminal activity, you can file an appeal based on jury misconduct or a mistake in the judicial process. An appeal requires the California Appellate Court to analyze your criminal case's court record and determine whether the lower court served justice.
Find Aggressive Legal Assistance Near Me
Double jeopardy is a fundamental constitutional doctrine derived from the 5th Amendment that safeguards you from being tried or punished more than once for a single crime. In other words, you cannot be convicted for a second time if you were already found guilty, and it prevents multiple penalties for one offense. If you believe the judge or prosecutor is punishing you for the same offense, discussing your case with the Foos Gavin Law Firm is vital. For many years, we have helped Sacramento residents by representing defendants in court, arguing constitutional violations, advising them of their rights, and reducing illegal and excessive penalties. Please contact us at 916-779-3500 to get answers to your questions and receive expert advice.