Criminal Defense

Under What Circumstances Can My Criminal Case Be Reopened If I Was Found Innocent?

If you’ve been pardoned or acquitted of a criminal offense, the term “double jeopardy NRS 412.378″ will surely take on a deep meaning. This valid legal concept means to protect anyone from being tried twice for the identical crime. In other words, once the courts have either convicted you of a criminal offense or found you innocent and set you free, you should be able to rest assured that you will never stand trial for that identical crime again. Doesn’t the Fifth Amendment guarantee it?

Same Crime, Different Time

Suppose you stood trial for robbing the corner jewelry store in May of last year. Your lawyer successfully pled your case, and the jury found you innocent. Now it is December of the same year, and here you are under arrest again, once more accused of robbing the same jewelry store. Although the cops caught you red-handed doing the same thing at the identical location, this escapade counts as a new and different crime, and double jeopardy will not protect you.

Now, imagine the same scenario with one major difference: Instead of being accused of attempting the same robbery six months later, someone has discovered new evidence indicating that despite the earlier verdict of innocence, you truly were guilty the first time after all. What will happen now?

This is exactly the type of situation against which the Fifth Amendment is designed to protect. It could be that you really did commit that earlier crime, but once the courts have pronounced you either innocent or guilty, the double jeopardy clause will normally prevent you from having to stand trial for it again. Without this protection, prosecutors could conceivably retry you repeatedly for the same crime until they succeeded in getting a conviction.

When Your First Case Ended in a Mistrial

The fact that the law cannot prosecute an innocent defendant repeatedly for the same crime applies only when a jury agreed unanimously to your innocence the first time around. In any criminal case, the verdict depends on getting every juror to agree on the defendant’s innocence or guilt. If even one juror refuses to toe the line, the jury is hung and hands down no verdict either way.

Unfortunately, on cases that end in a mistrial, double jeopardy has no bearing. While an acquittal or “not guilty” verdict should signal the end of your criminal case, the mistrial can put you at risk for standing trial all over again. Because you have not received a verdict, double jeopardy protection does not apply.

When the Government Multiplies the Charge

The government can legally charge any defendant not only with having committed a crime but also with having conspired to commit that crime. Because these count as two separate charges, the law gets two chances to convict the defendant for what many would claim to have been the identical offense.

Prosecutors often take great delight in bringing such separate charges. For one thing, they often find it simpler to prove conspiracy than to prove actual culpability. For another, the tactic allows them to pull in related offenses for which the statute of limitations may already have long since run out.

Double Jeopardy and the Separate Sovereigns Exception

Under the dual sovereignty doctrine, the courts can try, convict and sentence a defendant for the same crime twice if the trials take place in separate jurisdictions. For example, if you should find yourself acquitted of a crime in state court, the double jeopardy doctrine will not protect you from having to stand trial again for that crime in federal court.

That is because the law treats state and federal courts as separate sovereigns, and the doctrine of dual sovereignty holds that the same crime defined by disparate jurisdictions need not count as one offense. A kidnapper who transports his victim across state lines can be tried and convicted for that crime in the courts of each involved state and yet a third time in federal court.

Many people have opposed the doctrine of dual sovereignty on the grounds of simple fairness, stating that its very existence contradicts the values of double jeopardy protections.

Double Jeopardy and You

The Fifth Amendment’s double jeopardy clause aims to protect against multiple prosecutions for the same offense. Although there will be circumstances under which it will not apply, no individual who has received a pardon, an acquittal or a guilty verdict at trial for a specific crime can legally face prosecution again for that same trial in the same jurisdiction.

If you need help in determining whether the facts of your case meet the requirements of protection under the double jeopardy clause, the attorneys at Weiner Law Group can help. Please call 702-202-0500 today for a free consultation and a chance to discuss the legal merits of your case.