Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu
La Plata & Waldorf Criminal Defense Lawyer
The Charles County Criminal Defense Firm Hablamos Español 301-259-3488

Are Two Trials Possible? What About Double Jeopardy?


If you’ve ever watched courtroom drama on TV you’ve probably heard of double jeopardy—the 5th Amendment protection against being tried twice for the same crime. But what you may not know is that there are some situations in which defendants may very well face separate prosecutions for the same crime. State and federal governments might, in fact, prosecute individually for the same crime.  Even two different state governments could prosecute in two separate trials for a single offense if both have jurisdiction in the case. And there’s one more interesting caveat: civil and criminal trials could pursue different forms of justice for the same act.

For Example: O.J. Simpson 

In its original iteration the Double Jeopardy Clause applied only to federal cases. As time evolved it became integrated into state laws, as well. Now, although criminal trials and their related penalties cannot be held successively for the same act or omission, the Supreme Court has determined that both civil and criminal sanctions may be handed down for the same offense after independent criminal and civil trials.  That means that an offender might be tried criminally for a particular offense, only to face civil charges in a separate trial later based on the same act.  One notorious situation exemplifying this ability relates to the criminal murder trial of O.J. Simpson, which sought incarceration or worse (he was found not guilty), followed by the civil trial for wrongful death which sought monetary damages after the initial criminal trial (he was found guilty).  Although Simpson managed to avoid prison time penalties sought in the criminal trial, he was ordered to pay over $33 million in damages after being found responsible for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson (his ex-wife) and Ronald Goldman in the civil trial. Simpson was tried for the same act, in two different trials, each with different goals, and wildly different outcomes. Yet, even after being found guilty in the civil trial, Simpson can never be retried criminally for the same offense due to double jeopardy protections.

 Understanding Double Jeopardy

When determining whether an act can be charged a second time in the same jurisdiction in a criminal trial, prosecutors must assess whether each offense to be charged has an element that isn’t encompassed in the previous trial. Without that unique element, a second trial would be considered double jeopardy. In the O.J. Simpson case, for example, because the elements of the case were unchanged, the case could not be retried in a criminal court, despite the guilty verdict in the civil trial.

When is Jeopardy Attached?

 Jeopardy is attached when differently in different situations:

  • Jury Trial: When the jury is seated and sworn in;
  • In a Bench Trial: When the first evidence or witness is introduced;
  • In a Plea Deal: When the judge accepts the plea.

In the case of O.J. Simpson, because he had a jury trial, the defendant had double jeopardy protections as soon as the jury was sworn in. Legal problems he encountered in the coming years following the civil trial were completely unrelated to the slayings of his ex-wife and Goldman.

You Deserve to an Aggressive Defense 

Regardless of the criminal charges you are facing, the experienced La Plata & Waldorf criminal defense attorneys at The Law Office of Hammad S. Matin, P.A. are determined to fight vigorously for the best possible outcomes for you. To discuss, schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn