When Can You Appeal for Double Jeopardy?

A federal appeals court recently upheld the conviction of a man who shot and killed a Millard County sheriff’s deputy. The man was sentenced in 2017 to life in prison plus 80 years for the death of a law enforcement officer during a job. This decision occurred after a jury previously acquitted the man of similar charges during a state court trial.

In an appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, the defendant’s legal counsel argued that the federal jury should have been able to consider that the state jury had decided the man was not guilty in reaching its decision. The man’s legal counsel created an argument that claimed trying the man twice for the same offense constituted double jeopardy.

The circuit court, however, found that this previous ruling had low “probative value,” would have been unfair to the government, and had the potential to confuse or mislead the jury. The 10th Circuit later found that the second trial did not violate double jeopardy law due to the “dual sovereignty” doctrine which holds that two crimes occur when a person commits a single act that violates federal as well as state law. The man on trial has also argued that he was not the one who killed his brother and instead says that someone else in the car shot and killed the law enforcement officer.

Many people have heard of the phrase “double jeopardy” in films or read it in thrillers but are uncertain of what exactly this phrase means. In reality, the concept of “double jeopardy” can be difficult to understand. If you believe that your double jeopardy rights have been violated in a federal criminal court, it can serve as the basis for a strong appeal, which is why you should not hesitate to speak with a skilled appellate attorney.

What is Double Jeopardy?

The protections offered by double jeopardy arise from the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. While “double jeopardy” is not specifically mentioned, the law states that any individual cannot “be subject” to the same offense twice.

As a result, the government is unable to prosecute a person for the same crime twice. This means that if you are found not guilty of an offense, you can not later be charged a second time for the same offense. After being found not guilty of an offense, you also cannot later face trial for offenses that comprise the first crime.  

It is important to note, however, that different criminal systems like state and federal courts or two state courts can put a person on trial separately for the same charge. This “exception” to the “double jeopardy” law is referred to as “dual sovereignty” like in the example that opened this article.

Contact a Skilled Federal Appeal Lawyer

If any of your constitutional rights including the double jeopardy protection were violated in a federal criminal trial, you likely have the basis for a strong appeal. As a result, you should not hesitate to speak with a knowledgeable attorney at the Federal Criminal Law Center who can make sure that your case resolves in the best possible manner.