double jeopardy | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee

Double Jeopardy is the unconstitutional practice of prosecuting a person twice for the same offense within the same jurisdiction, which is prohibited by the Fifth Amendment.

Double jeopardy is a legal principle that prohibits a person from being prosecuted twice for the same offense within the same jurisdiction. This principle is protected by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which states that no person shall be “subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” In other words, once a person has been acquitted or convicted of a crime, they cannot be prosecuted again for the same crime by the same jurisdiction.

It is important to note that double jeopardy only applies to criminal prosecutions within the same jurisdiction. This means that a person can be prosecuted for the same offense by different jurisdictions. For example, if a person is acquitted of a crime in a state court, they can still be prosecuted for the same crime in federal court, as federal and state jurisdictions are separate.

Double jeopardy also does not apply to civil cases. This means that a person can be found liable for a tort in civil court, even if they have been acquitted or convicted of a crime for the same act in criminal court. This is because civil and criminal cases have different standards of proof and different purposes. While criminal cases seek to punish the offender for violating the law, civil cases seek to compensate the victim for their losses.

However, there are some exceptions to the double jeopardy rule. For example, if new evidence comes to light that was not available during the first trial, a person can be tried again for the same offense. Additionally, if a mistrial is declared due to a procedural error or the jury is unable to reach a verdict, the prosecution can try the defendant again.

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Last Modified: 04/18/2023


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