What is Double Jeopardy in Arizona?
For individuals who have faced criminal charges previously but have been found not guilty of the crime should know and understand their rights under the Double Jeopardy law.
The law comes from the Fifth Amendment, which outlines that a person should not “be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” Hence, where the term Double Jeopardy comes from.
Once you’ve already faced prosecution for a crime, you cannot face that prosecution again. However, the law gets more complicated in actual practice than it is in writing. We’ll explain how the law might apply in a criminal case and what you need to know.
What does Double Jeopardy protect against?
Double Jeopardy is designed to provide fairness to individuals facing criminal charges. With that, court decisions should be fair and final. That way, a defendant cannot face punishment or trial for a crime more than once.
The law specifically protects defendants from the following situations.
- Facing prosecution for a crime after being acquitted of that crime.
- Being prosecuted for a crime they already served a conviction for
- Undergoing more than one punishment for the same criminal offense
If a prosecutor tries to charge you with a crime you’ve been acquitted of or served time for, you and your attorney can call upon the Double Jeopardy defense to get those charges dropped.
It doesn’t matter if the prosecution discovers new evidence against you after trial. They cannot seek more severe punishment than what you’ve already undergone or retry the case if you were acquitted. In no case can your case be resentenced after you’ve served time for the crime in question.
All that information makes the Double Jeopardy law sound perfectly clear. But there are situations and scenarios where it isn’t as clear as you might hope.
Here’s a look at some of the situations where Double Jeopardy does not apply.
Does not apply to civil cases
Double Jeopardy protections only apply to criminal cases. This means that civil cases or administrative proceedings do not have any sort of protection.
Therefore, even if you’re found not guilty in a criminal case, such as assault, you could still face a civil case concerning your actions. In that case, the individual that you allegedly assaulted could pursue financial damages for the injuries you caused them. The decision in the criminal case will have no bearing on the civil lawsuit.
Likewise, the BMV can suspend your license even if you’re found not guilty in a drunk driving or reckless driving case, both of which carry criminal penalties.
Differentiating between the same offense and multiple offenses
Law enforcement cannot charge you for the same offense just with different charges. For example, a person cannot face charges for joyriding, be acquitted and then face charges for auto theft from the same incident. Although the charges filed might be different, it’s the same crime.
However, let’s say you go joyriding and rob a convenience store to have some energy drinks and snacks for your joyride. If the theft becomes apparent after your joyriding court case, the prosecution can charge you for theft because it is a separate offense from the joyriding offense.
Or, the prosecution might learn that you’d taken your neighbor’s vehicle on more than one occasion or continued joyriding after your court case. In this case, these are new offenses that you could be tried for in the court of law after being acquitted or serving time for the offense.
Additionally, Double Jeopardy does not apply in cases where the prosecution charged you with a crime and later dropped those charges. So long as you didn’t face a trial for the case, the prosecution can still charge you again for that same offense once they have more evidence.
If you’re unsure how Double Jeopardy laws might apply in your case, you should consult a criminal defense attorney. Your attorney will protect your rights and ensure a fair trial for your case.