Planet Defendant: Double Jeopardy Clause

Being charged with a crime can feel like being transported to another world called Planet Defendant.  Like all worlds, Planet Defendant has its own customs and procedures that one should learn. An important custom and procedure on Planet Defendant is called double jeopardy.

The concept of double jeopardy is found in the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which states “. . . nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.”  This is commonly called the “Double Jeopardy Clause.” The Arizona Constitution also has a double jeopardy clause found in Article 2, Section 10 which states that no person shall “be twice put in jeopardy for the same offense.”  At its core, the Double Jeopardy Clause means that no one should ever be punished twice for his or her criminal conduct.

The Double Jeopardy Clause tends to come up in three situations:  retrial after a not guilty verdict, multiple criminal charges or counts based on a defendant’s single course of conduct, and defendant’s conduct constitutes a violation of two different criminal statutes.

The Double Jeopardy Clause prohibits the State or government from either appealing a not guilty verdict or bringing the same criminal charge against an acquitted defendant in order to obtain a guilty verdict.  For example, California and Florida could not bring new murder charges against O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony who were found not guilty of murder.

The State or government could also charge a defendant with multiple criminal charges or counts based on his or her single, uninterrupted course of conduct.  This situation can occur when multiple sex crimes are charged based on one sexual encounter or when there are multiple victims in a single encounter. The Supreme Court of Arizona recently held that Arizona’s resisting arrest statute, A.R.S. § 13-508, permits only one conviction regardless of the number of officers involved when a defendant resists an arrest in the course of a single, continuous event in State v. Jurden, 239 Ariz. 526 (2016).

A violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause can occur when a person’s conduct constitutes a violation of two different criminal statutes.  See State v. Jurden, 239 Ariz. 526 ¶ 10 (2016).  This frequently comes up in the context of lesser-included offenses which are often charged along with greater-included offenses.  For example, the Arizona Court of Appeals found that child molestation pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-1410 was a lesser-included offense to the greater offense of sexual conduct with a minor pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-1405 in State v. Ortega, 220 Ariz. 320 (App. 2008).

Double Jeopardy Clause analysis is very complex.  If you are charged with several crimes based on a single course of conduct, you need an experienced defense attorney to make sure that the State has not violated the Double Jeopardy Clause.  Attorney Gary Rohlwing has over thirty years experience. Call him today for a free consultation.

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