It is a violation of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution for anyone to be held criminally accountable twice for the same issue by the same sovereign (legal entity). What this means is that you cannot be made to stand trial a second time for any of your actions in a state court if the first trial in a state court has already had a final ruling in your favor. Believe it or not, in some countries, the government can start over and keep trying until they get a conviction.
DUI-DWI is usually a state law crime
Several important exceptions to "double jeopardy" exist. Each state is a separate and distinct sovereign (independent government) from our federal government. With certain types of crimes, each sovereign may try you for the same set of circumstances if your actions are violative of different laws of each "sovereign." However, for this to occur in a DUI-DWI case is highly unlikely because in almost all prosecutions for DUI-DWI, the federal government has no "jurisdiction" since it is a state crime that almost always occurs on state property (as opposed to crimes occurring on federal lands).
When does "double jeopardy" apply?
Next, be aware that double jeopardy applies only at a certain point in the legal proceedings. If your proceedings get stopped by the judge before a verdict or judgment is rendered, you may have no constitutional protection against a second trial. In most jurisdictions, this point in time is after the jury has been impaneled and sworn in, or after any testimony or evidence has been started after the jury is sworn in. In a non-jury (bench) trial, the usual time for jeopardy to attach is once the first witness begins testifying at the trial.
Get a good attorney who won't make a mistake, such as raising the issue of double jeopardy too early
A mistake made by raising an issue too early may allow the prosecutor to ask the judge to delay the proceedings, correct the error, and begin your trial again - with the error resolved. This is yet another reason to have the best DUI-DWI attorney you can afford, because he or she will know exactly when and how to raise the double jeopardy issue that may win your case on this highly specialized legal issue.
Double jeopardy and DUI-DWI
It is not a double jeopardy situation for your license to be taken from you in an administrative hearing, and for you then to have to stand trial for DUI-DWI in a criminal court and possibly lose your license again. Although the hearing at which your driver's license is suspended immediately following a DUI-DWI arrest may seem like a criminal trial, the only question determined at such proceedings is whether or not you should lose a property interest (that is, your driver's license).
The privilege of driving, double jeopardy, and DUI-DWI
You have no constitutional or statutory right to drive. You merely have a privilege from the state that granted your license to you. The administrative hearing is provided after your DUI-DWI arrest to determine if your driving privilege should be suspended or revoked. This is a different issue than the legal issues involved in your criminal case, when your liberty interests are at stake (you could be put in jail or penalized with fines, be forced into alcohol or drug treatment for rehabilitation purposes, or be required to perform a substantial number of community service hours.) Because different interests are at stake, the issue being litigated in the two related (but different) proceedings is not the same. Courts across the United States have ruled that being put through both proceedings is not double jeopardy.
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