Philadelphia Criminal Law News

What Is Double Jeopardy?

The Fifth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution includes the double jeopardy clause, which prohibits the government from prosecuting a person more than once and forcing more than one penalty for a single offense. According to FindLaw, the clause states "no person shall... be subject to the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb."

Double jeopardy can also apply to Philadelphia defendants who appear in PA State court. The clause helps prevent innocent people from being wrongly convicted, protects them from the financial and emotional effects of consecutive prosecutions, and upholds the integrity of criminal proceedings.

The double jeopardy clause extends to all felonies, misdemeanors, and juvenile delinquency adjudications, not just capital crimes. However, jeopardy protection only applies to subsequent criminal proceedings and not civil proceedings.  A Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer can determine how and when the clause may apply to an individual's case. If a case does not put the defendant in jeopardy, then the following proceedings against the person for the same conduct are not barred.

The U.S. Supreme Court holds that jeopardy "attaches" or begins when a jury is sworn during a jury trial. In a bench trial, or trial by judge without the presence of a jury, jeopardy protection takes hold when the witness is sworn. For juvenile delinquency adjudication, jeopardy attaches when the court first hears the evidence. Jeopardy does not attach if a defendant or juvenile enters a plea agreement with the prosecution until the court accepts the plea.

To get a better understanding and detailed explanation of double jeopardy, talk to a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer or visit the Related Resources for general information.

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