Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Double Jeopardy Definition:

A prohibition against being tried or sentenced twice for the same offense.

Related Terms: Autrefois Acquit, Fifth Amendment, Dual Sovereignty Doctrine, Petite Policy

To be in put in criminal law jeopardy twice as to the same offence.

The term refers to a defence available to a person autrefois acquit (previously acquitted) or previously convicted, to prohibit any subsequent attempt to re-try him/her for the same offence.

This is explicitly prohibited by most state’s constitutional laws such as the Fifth Amendment in the USA, and section 11(h) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In Ashe v Swenson, a 1970 US Supreme Court case, cited as 397 U.S. 436 (available online at altlaw.org/v1/cases/400107.txt), Mr. Justice Stewart referred to the double jeopardy defence, that it:

"... protects a man who has been acquitted from having to run the gauntlet a second time."

A significant distinction is made between criminal exposure (where the exercise is aimed at punishment) and civil liability including fines, where the aim is primarily compensation.

The equivalent to civil law’s concept of res judicata.

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