What is “Double Jeopardy?”
The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution states, amongst other things, that “no person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. The concept of being tried twice for the same crime is what has come to be known as “double jeopardy.” This essentially means that if an individual was tried for murder, and was acquitted, they cannot later be charged again with the same murder.
State Vs. Federal Charges
The Fifth Amendment offers an important protection for citizens of the United States with regards to double jeopardy. In practice, however, legal precedent has made the situation much more confusing.
Over the course of over 150 years of legal history, the Supreme Court has issued a number of rulings concerning something called “separate sovereigns.” Separate sovereigns essentially mean that state and federal courts are separate, meaning the Supreme Court has found no reason why an individual cannot be tried for the same crime in both state and federal court, thus circumventing the Fifth Amendment. This is because, the court maintains, that when a defendant breaks both federal and state laws, that amounts to two distinct crimes.
Many states prohibit the trying of individuals who have been convicted for the same crime by the federal government. Not all, however, do.
Why Does This News Matter?
The Supreme Court will this fall hear the case of Terence Gamble, who was arrested and convicted in Alabama for illegal possession of a firearm and later charged for the same crime in federal court – for which he is now serving three years in federal prison.
According to Gamble’s petition to the court, “the separate-sovereigns exception turns federalism on its head. Gamble’s is a case in point. Far from enhancing his freedoms and securing his liberty, the constitutional division of sovereign power has cost him three years of his life.” Further, according to Gamble’s lawyers, “Congress has dramatically expanded the number and scope of federal laws in recent years, creating more duplications with state laws, a problem the earlier Supreme Court decisions never envisioned.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling on double jeopardy may have profound legal implications. For that reason, it’s essential that if you are charged, you hire an experienced legal defense attorney. Chad Piotrowski has an extensive background in aggressively defending his clients from charges ranging from marijuana possession to armed drug trafficking and murder. A former prosecutor in Miami-Dade County, Chad Piotrowski has the unique ability to anticipate prosecution strategies to help build a solid defense to help obtain the best possible outcome for his clients.