Jeopardy is not just a game show. It is a very important principle in criminal cases. It has to do with the concept that men and women should not be tried for the same crime twice. Whether a person is found guilty or not guilty in their criminal jury trial, they cannot be required to do another trial (unless there is a successful appeal by the defense, of course).
Double Jeopardy – A Constitutional Protection for You
In the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, our country’s founders laid out a protection which prevents us from “twice being put in jeopardy of life or limb.” With this law, the government in Jefferson and Adams County gets only one chance to convict you at a jury trial. If they blow it, or cannot locate a key witness, they don’t get a second chance. To avoid the possibility of a likely loss, District Attorneys will sometimes dismiss a case and hope to take it to trial later, rather than risk a loss without some key evidence, like an essential witness. They must be mindful of the applicable Statute of Limitations (a/k/a Limitations of Actions) for a charge when engaging in this strategy. Once the Statute of Limitations expires, the government cannot take you to trial.
When Does Jeopardy Attach in Denver Courts?
Typically, jeopardy attaches when the jury is sworn in. If the trial is to a court, it attaches once the first witness in the case takes the stand. “Attaches” in this context means when the law is applicable to a given criminal case.
Exceptions to Jeopardy Law
In some instances, an exception to jeopardy occurs when a defendant procures his acquittal through fraud or similar conduct, like forcing a witness to hide out. Another example would be if you have a hung jury who cannot reach a unanimous verdict and the judge declares a mistrial. You must also remember that jeopardy will not help you if a second jurisdiction is taking a look at your conduct, under different laws. For example, you can be acquitted of a crime like sexual assault, theft or domestic violence criminal mischief in Arapahoe or Douglas County Colorado state court, only to be retried under federal law in federal court. We have seen municipal courts in places like Aurora and Lakewood, take a person to trial under their city’s municipal code, the person is acquitted, and then the District Attorney chooses to try the person under a similar state law.
Constitutional law and the Fifth Amendment are complicated legal principles which involve legal research and strategic planning. Don’t go alone to trial against an experienced prosecutor. Instead, call our seasoned criminal defense lawyers at 303-731-0719 today. Together, we can protect your future.