Double Jeopardy in California Criminal Law

Double Jeopardy in California Criminal Law

What Is Double Jeopardy?

The federal double jeopardy clause is part of the Fifth Amendment. In most circumstances, it prevents a person from being tried or punished for the same crime twice. It prevents the government from abusing the justice system. Section 687 of the California Penal Code reiterates that protection at a state level. Double jeopardy and other complicated issues are common reasons why people have relatives or friends bail them out of jail after they are arrested. When a person can fight a criminal case outside of jail, it is easier to find a good attorney and be prepared for hearings. A bail bond is usually about 10% of the total bail that the judge sets. Once that is paid, the bail agency secures the defendant’s release. As long as the defendant appears in court as required, the person who paid does not have to repay the full bail amount. A good attorney can identify double jeopardy issues and other potential problems. How does double jeopardy work? What is the legal defense of double jeopardy? Those are some common questions that people ask about the double jeopardy clause.

How Does Double Jeopardy Work With Federal Law?

In federal law, double jeopardy would happen if the government tried to prosecute or punish a person for a crime after the individual was acquitted or convicted. For example, if the government thought that an innocent person was not innocent, it could not reopen the case and hope for a different verdict. In addition to causing financial and psychological damage to a person, this type of abuse would create a heavier burden on the courts and the justice system. With no double jeopardy allowed, people cannot get multiple convictions for one charge.

What Is Double Jeopardy in California State Law?

In California, a person cannot be tried for the same crime in state courts twice. However, people may be charged twice for crimes that violate federal and state laws. One of the few times when it is legal to charge someone for the same crime twice is when dual sovereignty exists. Federal and state courts have separate sovereignty. For example, imagine that someone is tried for manslaughter in state court. If the person is acquitted, federal prosecutors could charge the individual. However, if the individual is also acquitted in federal court, that person cannot be tried again in state court for the same crime.

What Is the Legal Defence of Double Jeopardy?

To understand how and when attorneys might use a double jeopardy legal defense, it is important to know when jeopardy attaches. A defendant is not in jeopardy immediately after charges are filed. Jeopardy attaches later in the proceedings. Although the following examples are not a complete list, they are some applicable attachment rules:

  •        Jeopardy attaches when the first witness of a bench trial is sworn in.
  •        Jeopardy attaches in a jury trial after the jurors have been selected and sworn in.
  •        Jeopardy may attach if there is a legal necessity after a discharge of the jury.
  •        Jeopardy attaches when a defendant enters a no contest or guilty plea and the court accepts it.
  •        Unless it is a certain type of juvenile case, jeopardy does not attach in a civil proceeding.

The double jeopardy defense may be raised if an unwarranted discharge of the jury happens after the defendant does not give consent. If someone who is convicted of crime files an appeal and has a new trial, the double jeopardy law does not prevent re-prosecution for that trial. However, prosecutors cannot try to enhance the charges or seek more severe punishment.

Jeopardy must also terminate for the double jeopardy law to apply. This usually means that there is a guilty verdict, a not guilty verdict, or an acquittal. However, retrial is not barred at the end of every case. If the defendant agrees to a mistrial, jeopardy does not terminate. The case may be re-prosecuted. Also, a hung jury could impede the no double jeopardy rule.

This blog is not legal advice. Please contact a criminal defense attorney for legal questions.

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