Residents of California have likely heard the term “double jeopardy” used before, but unless you have tangled with the criminal justice system in some way, it may not be meaningful to you. According to FindLaw, double jeopardy is used to prevent the same person from being tried for the same crime twice. Basically, if you were found not guilty once, you cannot be retried for the same crime. This allows people to move on with their lives after being accused of committing a crime without the worry of it coming back to them.

The Double Jeopardy Clause is present in the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Along with federal law, most states have laws in place that prevent someone from being subjected to the same offense. This is considered a vital constitutional right and because of the doctrine of incorporation, even states without double jeopardy protection give protection because of the Fifth Amendment.

Double jeopardy protects citizens in several ways. It does not allow the government to ignore verdicts it does not like and protects the finality of criminal proceedings. It also places limits on the power of the prosecutor and protects individuals from the emotional and financial toll that comes from being prosecuted for the same crime over and over.

A state can make its own laws to protect citizens even more from double jeopardy, but the laws cannot be changed to protect them less. A Supreme Court ruling determined that protections extend to juvenile delinquency adjudications, misdemeanors and felonies, no matter what the potential punishment is. If you have been accused of a crime and feel your rights need to be protected, it is a good idea to contact a criminal defense attorney who can advocate for your rights as you move through the legal system.

This is for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as legal advice.