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Double Jeopardy


When most people think of the 5th Amendment, the right to remain silent usually comes to mind.  But there is much more to this important amendment to the constitution.  Case in point: protection from double jeopardy.

What is Double Jeopardy? 

The important clause in the 5th Amendment is thought to have originated in ancient Rome.  It offers protections from being charged for the same crime after being acquitted.  It also prohibits charging the same action for two different crimes.  For example, if someone burglarized a business and killed the owner, they might be charged with both the burglary and the murder, since they are two separate crimes that occurred during one event.  The 5th Amendment would not allow for charges of both murder and manslaughter, however, since both charges relate to a single incident.

When the Right is Waived 

If a defendant relinquishes their claim to double jeopardy in a plea deal, they may not reassert the claim later. This became an issue in the 1989 case of United States v. Broce dealing with a conspiracy case that was settled with a plea. Though they were convicted of two conspiracies, the defendants claimed there was just one, and the second count should be set aside.  In a disappointment to the defense, the court found that the respondents had given up their ability to raise a double jeopardy defense in the plea agreement, despite acknowledging that the defense attorneys may not have adequately explained as much.

When a Jury Acquits on Some Counts but is Hung on Others 

What if a jury cannot reach a verdict on certain counts, but acquits on others? Can defendants be retried on the elements that were left unresolved, or does Double Jeopardy require otherwise? We look to the case of Yeager v. United States for the answer.

The case involved F. Scott Yeager, who was acquitted of security fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy.  The same jury could not reach a verdict on charges of money laundering and insider trading—119 counts in all– so the court declared a mistrial on those counts, and he was indicted on the charges once again.  Yeager appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on the basis of double jeopardy, or collateral estoppel—the very doctrine that protects criminal defendants from being retried on the same issue. The appeal was won, and the case was dropped. The Fourteenth Amendment, in its guarantee of due process, makes this binding at both the state and federal levels.

Justice is Complicated 

If you are facing criminal charges, you already know that the road to justice can be very convoluted. At The Law Office of Julia Kefalinos, our Miami criminal defense attorneys work diligently on your behalf throughout the journey. Schedule a confidential consultation in our Miami office today.



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