Can You Be Prosecuted For The Same Crime Twice?


Within the realm of criminal law, we often hear the term ‘double jeopardy’ being thrown around. Most men and women have a general understanding of this phrase. Others, however, do not comprehend where the term comes from and exactly what it represents.

In layman’s terms, the concept of double jeopardy deals with the fact that an accused person cannot be tried for the same crime twice. This law stems from the 5th amendment of the United States Constitution, which reads:

“…nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.”

While this declaration may seem black and white, there is a decent amount of a gray area surrounding the topic.

Are you confused about the idea of double jeopardy? Do you believe you’re at risk of being tried for the same crime twice? It might be time to call a skilled criminal defense attorney.

The lawyers at Vinas & Graham have more than 30 years of combined experience trying complex criminal cases. With more than 200 jury trials behind them, they have the knowledge needed to explain best how you could be prosecuted for your crime.

Does Double Jeopardy Still Exist?

If you watch most courtroom dramas, or 1999 movies starring Ashley Judd, you often hear characters talking about double jeopardy. Thanks in part to its prevalence in popular culture, some individuals may wonder if it even exists within the real legal system.

The short answer is yes.

In most cases, the concept of double jeopardy still holds. It is a common legal myth, however, that there is no way to be prosecuted for the same crime twice. There are specific instances where the 5th amendment law may not be applicable, for example:

  • Case Dismissal
  • Mistrials or Hung Juries
  • Conviction Reversal Upon Appeal

There is one other exemption to double jeopardy that is often misunderstood: dual sovereignty doctrine.

What Is Dual Sovereignty Doctrine?

The United States legal system defines the dual sovereignty doctrine as a legal principle. This principle states that more than one sovereign may prosecute an accused person for the same crime without committing double jeopardy.

Simply put, if an individual does a crime that goes against both state laws and federal laws, that person can face trial in both the state and federal court systems. Usually, they will undergo prosecution on the state-level first.

Dual Sovereignty Doctrine And Today’s Legal System?

The attorneys at Vinas & Graham often hear clients wondering about the enforcement of dual sovereignty doctrine. While it is still relevant within the court system, there has been recent debate over whether this policy should be overruled.

In the 2016 matter of Gamble v. United States, a man by the name of Terance Gamble was charged with felony possession of a firearm. This action is considered a crime under both state and federal law; therefore, Gamble was tried in both courts.

Along with his criminal defense lawyer, Gamble argued that the prosecutions went against the 5th amendment’s ban on double jeopardy convictions. Gamble’s case shed new light on the dual sovereignty doctrine and brought into question whether it went against the constitutional rights of Americans.

Their case raised serious concerns about the enactment of dual sovereignty. In response to the trial, substantial consideration was given to its elimination. Legal heavyweights like Ruth Bader Ginsburg even weighed in on the topic.

In June of 2019, however, the Supreme Court overthrew Gamble’s suggestion to eliminate dual sovereignty, and it remains in place.

Does Your Case Qualify For Double Jeopardy?

Trying to understand whether your case falls under the double jeopardy clause can be confusing and scary. After all, no one wants to believe they could be prosecuted for the same crime more than once.

Whether you’ve experienced a mistrial, case dismissal, or are at risk for dual sovereignty, don’t try to handle the situation on your own. Prosecutors have unlimited resources to build a case against you—hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial.

The lawyers at Vinas & Graham have decades of experience pleading cases for residents of the Houston area. Starting their careers as felony prosecutors, they’re familiar with how the “other side” will look at your situation.

You deserve a fair trial and practiced legal counsel. Give us a call today or fill out our easy-to-use online form to schedule a free consultation.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, as well, for more news and information.