California Law – Double Jeopardy

The law in the US has many safeguards against the abuse of power within the justice system. One of the main principles of the US criminal justice system is that all are innocent until proven guilty. As such, the constitution has included the concept of double jeopardy. Double jeopardy is in place so that a US state cannot send to trial an individual for a crime they have already been acquitted of or found not guilty. Therefore, if the accused receives any of the aforementioned verdicts, the state (the losing party of such a verdict) is prohibited from arresting and bringing to trial the accused for the same crime.

 

As mentioned previously, double jeopardy is an important constitutional principle because it provides a legal protection for innocent persons to not be prosecuted against for the same crime over and over again until a guilty conviction is received. However, it is important to note that double jeopardy does not apply to civil cases. Given the different burdens of proof, evidence, and testimonies involved in both civil and criminal cases, a person accused of a crime can be acquitted in the criminal case, but still face a civil lawsuit for the relevant violation.

 

Furthermore, the protection of double jeopardy applies even if public perception (or even within the prosecutor’s office) is that the original verdict was incorrect. This comes into play for high-profile cases that make it into the media. These cases tend to polarize the public, and as such it is critical to understand that once a verdict for a specific crime is made, the prosecution cannot try the accused for that same crime once more. However, double jeopardy is to not be confused with appeals or the ability to try that person again, but for a different crime.

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