When Double Jeopardy Protection Ends

The Double Jeopardy Clause guarantees that no one should face prosecution for the same crime twice. This protection is part of the United States Constitution under the Fifth Amendment but it’s also incorporated into the state of Florida’s own constitutional framework. While this principle typically gets applied during the retrial of a defendant after an acquittal, there are several additional situations where it comes into play under state and federal law.

What Role Does The Double Jeopardy Clause Play in Court?

There are three key aspects to the Double Jeopardy Clause that protect you from multiple prosecution attempts for the same specific incident of a crime. These situations may seem complex due to a prosecutor having the right to charge you for multiple crimes that occurred in one period of time. For instance, drug dealing could result in an offense for each instance you sold drugs to someone, or for each individual deal that you brokered.

Specifically, double jeopardy protections are in effect when you are:

At Trial

The prosecution cannot charge you and a judge cannot sentence you multiple times for the same instance of an offense.

Acquitted

When you receive an acquittal for the charged offense, the prosecution cannot bring you to trial a second time for that particular instance of the offense.

Already Convicted

Once convicted of a specific crime, you cannot be tried and punished again for that same occurrence.

When You’re Considered in Jeopardy

Florida and federal laws have outlined when exactly a person accused of a crime is in jeopardy. Defendants who are in a criminal trial and/or are at risk of conviction fall under this clause’s protection until the dismissal of the jeopardy occurs.

Defendants receive protections under the law against double jeopardy when:

  • A jury swears in
  • You accept a plea bargain in your case
  • The first witness swears in if it’s a bench trial

Essentially, when you’re officially on trial or accepting a resolution to your case, this vital Fifth Amendment clause applies to your situation for that specific criminal incident.

Double jeopardy guidelines do not apply when:

  • An arrest or brief detention occurred but then released due to no proof
  • Your criminal indictment gets dismissed

These scenarios demonstrate no true risk of jeopardy because of not meeting the previous standards. This also means that you could still be arrested and prosecuted at some point later. Under these circumstances, having an experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney is critical in protecting you from further legal jeopardy.

In What Situations Does Double Jeopardy Not Apply?

Florida prosecutors often use one criminal instance and its facts to then bring multiple offense charges against the defendant. You often see this occur in drug trafficking cases and sex crimes trials where the defending party has a single charge for each occurrence of the crime. Without these individual occurrences or transactions of offenses, multiple charges would get treated as the same single offense under Double Jeopardy rules.

Still, there are case situations that don’t qualify for this important clause.

  • Civil suits seeking restitution and compensation are separate proceedings from a criminal court case. You can win in one case while still losing the other and get punished accordingly.
  • Administrative proceedings like those conducted by the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles where findings determine you drove drunk and your license is suspended are not the same as facing charges for DUI in criminal court.
  • You can go to trial based on the same facts of your first case for a different crime in another court without Double Jeopardy applying
  • Federal and state courts can pursue the same crime so long as the defendant’s actions violated both bodies of law.

Double Jeopardy in Mistrial Situations

Mistrial situations have additional rules to apply when considering the application of the double jeopardy clause. A mistrial is a situation during a court trial where the process is ended before completing the case. There are a couple of situations that can lead to this complicated double jeopardy situation, but typically involves:

  • The defendant agrees, willingly or reluctantly, to the mistrial and the trial begins all over again.
  • There is no other choice due to a circumstance that will prevent a fair outcome of the trial
  • A jury could not reach a unanimous verdict (hung jury)

There is a possibility of using a mistrial in your defense strategy to force a double jeopardy finding and end your case. This situation involves showing that prosecutors goaded, or purposely encouraged, you into moving for a mistrial.

Normally, this type of action would not fall under double jeopardy and even have a court view it as a waiver to those protections. However, prosecutors may push the defense to do this in order to get a more favorable judge for the state or to unfairly reveal the defense strategy against the charges. In this situation, double jeopardy could possibly apply. The trial was already underway at the time of the motion which means the accused was in jeopardy at the time prosecutors goaded them into asking for a mistrial.

Don’t Let Prosecutors Get Away With Double Jeopardy Violations

Potentially having your Fifth Amendment rights and protections trampled in a criminal case in federal or Florida court is a risk no one should take. If you find yourself facing multiple charges, speak with a top-ranking Orlando criminal defense attorney right away. Don’t let prosecutors take advantage of your ignorance or convince you of the actions to take in exchange for promises of leniency. Your attorney can give you honest answers about your situation and create an aggressive defense to protect your freedom and future.

The Umansky Law Firm has more than 100 years of combined criminal defense experience that has successfully defended thousands of clients in the greater Orlando area. Their former years as Florida state prosecutors give your defense strategy an edge in the courtroom and during negotiations for the best possible outcome in your case. As recognized members of Florida Trend’s Legal Elite, you can have peace of mind knowing your case is in the hands of able lawyers with your best interests at heart. Contact us today at 407-228-3838 for a free case evaluation.