When Does Double Jeopardy Apply to a Criminal Case?

Everyone has heard that you cannot be tried twice for the same crime. The term double jeopardy is the definition of this legal protection offered by the Fifth Amendment. But what are the circumstances when a Greenville criminal defense lawyer may invoke this principle during your case?

Let us explain what double jeopardy covers and when the prosecution may still have a case against you and send it to trial.

When Is Double Jeopardy Applicable in a Criminal Case?

The basic definition of this legal term is that no person can be tried twice for the same crime. The contentious element of this statement is “the same crime.” Both South Carolina and federal courts have fought over the clear definition of this term.

In essence, double jeopardy is applicable if you were convicted or acquitted for a crime, based on specific facts. Then, the state of South Carolina or the federal government attempts to charge you with the same offense based on the same facts.

For example, you were charged with stealing your neighbor’s car and were found not guilty. The prosecution cannot use the same facts and evidence to charge you again with auto theft and try you.

The Blockburger Case Created the Same Elements Test

Now, the challenge is defining the concept of same elements of the charge. The benchmark for proving this was created by the Blockburger vs. United States case, where the Supreme  Court created a test which determines whether two offenses represent the same offense (thus, double jeopardy is applicable) or two distinct offenses (therefore, the defendant can be tried).

For example, if you were charged with breach of peace and public disorderly conduct solely based on the fact that you appeared under the influence of alcohol, you can be tried for only one of the offenses, not both.

However, if you are charged with disorderly conduct, based on the appearance of being intoxicated, and with driving under the influence as a result of the BAC test, both charges can be tried, because they are based on different facts. One charge is based on the observation of being intoxicated, the other on the results of the test.

find out the mechanisms of not being tried twice for the same crime

Issue Preclusion Allows the State to Open a New Criminal Case against You

One of the situations when you may not invoke double jeopardy is when you were tried based solely on a part of all the facts in the case. An example in this respect is the State vs. Henley case tried before the South Carolina Court of Appeals.

The defendant, Rickey Santoine Hanley, was tried for breaking and entering and larceny. He was found not guilty of larceny and there was a hung jury and a mistrial for the burglary charge.

When the state wanted to retry the defendant on burglary charges, he invoked double jeopardy. However, the South Carolina Court of Appeals rejected the plea, stating that the acquittal for larceny did not rely on the facts related to the burglary charge – entering a dwelling without the owner’s consent for the purpose of committing a crime.

A Mistrial Will Not Allow You to Invoke Double Jeopardy

Some people contact a Greenville criminal defense attorney after they’ve had a mistrial or hung jury. When the prosecution wants to retry them, they want to invoke double jeopardy.

Unfortunately, the principle does not apply in this situation. A mistrial means that the person was not actually properly tried for the offense based on the existing facts. The only exception is when the prosecutor intentionally provoked the defense attorney into moving for a mistrial.

Discuss Your Case with an Experienced Greenville Defense Lawyer!

Invoking double jeopardy is not as easy as it may appear at first glance. Prosecutors will always look at ways of finding new facts for pushing the charges against you to the trial phase.

The only person who can confidently determine that you may invoke this principle is a skilled Greenville criminal defense lawyer. At Boatwright Legal, we examine all the facts and evidence against you and determine whether they were used by the prosecution in a prior trial.

Do not leave your defense to chance in a criminal case – call us to schedule a free case evaluation at: 864-263-1679!

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