The famous Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution states in part:
"[N]or shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb..."
The major protections of the Double Jeopardy Clause
The Double Jeopardy Clause provides four major and essential protections.
It protects criminal defendants from (1) retrial after an acquittal; (2) retrial after a conviction; (3) retrial after certain mistrials; and (4) multiple punishments.
Are double jeopardy issues common?
Double jeopardy is rarely a problem for criminal defendants, both in state and federal court. This is because prosecutors generally want to wrap up all charges at once in the same case. However, there are always some exceptions to the rule.
The exceptions to the double jeopardy rule
One major exception to the rule against double jeopardy is that criminal defendants can be properly charged for the same conduct by different sovereigns. As an example, a defendant may face charges in both state or federal court for the same exact conduct if some parts of that conduct were in violation of federal laws while other aspects violated state laws.
The double jeopardy clause does not allow more than one criminal prosecution arising out of the same conduct. However, it is important to note that a defendant may be brought once to criminal court (by the prosecution) and once to civil court (i.e. by private parties) for the same exact offense. For example, a defendant may be brought to criminal court for allegedly committing battery on a victim AND be sued by that victim in civil court for the tort (a civil wrong) of battery.