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KatawaGrey's avatar

Are there any loopholes for double jeopardy?

Asked by KatawaGrey (21335 points ) March 20th, 2010

Once again, I’m watching Law and Order: SVU and my mother and I got to talking about double jeopardy.

It seems to me that if someone was acquitted in a murder case lacking crucial evidence such as a murder weapon or a body then if that evidence is found, the trial should be re-opened. However, this is not the case. Are there any loopholes that account for such gaps in evidence?

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8 Answers

jaytkay's avatar

Kind of. In the US, you get the benefit against prosecution for the same offense (”[no person shall] be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb”).

So, OJ Simpson cannot be retried for murder. However, he lost a civil trial for the same act. You can only lose your money and belongings in a civil trial. They can’t put you in prison or execute you (AKA take your “life or limb”).

Also, they may come up with a peripheral crime. Maybe you are acquitted, but they get you for perjury later.

dpworkin's avatar

Sometimes a person can be tried by the Feds if a State trial failed, but not for the same offense. As an example, if someone commits a murder upon a homosexual, and is acquitted for some reason, the Feds can charge him with a Civil Rights violation.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

A lot depends on the trial, too. That is, a charge can be dismissed “without prejudice” if one of the state’s primary witnesses is missing, incapable of testifying, recants, etc.

In that instance the prosecution’s case will be damaged beyond repair, and the judge will dismiss the case “without prejudice”, meaning that the prosecutor can refile charges if and when it can reconstruct its case. The key point in that is that the case is dismissed before it goes to the jury.

If the case is dismissed “with prejudice”, such as the case in all of the old Perry Mason shows where a surprise witness confesses to the crime, then the judge, noticing that this is prima facie evidence of ‘reasonable doubt’ dismisses the case “with prejudice”, meaning that the judgment has already been made in favor of the defendant, and he can’t be re-tried for this offense.

lillycoyote's avatar

Once someone is found not guilty of a crime, they cannot be retried for the same crime. That’s that. @cyanoticwasp is talking about circumstances where double jeopardy does not apply, where a case is dismissed, rather than where a trial was completed and a verdict rendered, that verdict being “not guilty.” But those clever folks on L&A. If someone “gets away with murder” they will very often find some other charge to try the person on, maybe not with the same or as severe a penalty, but they can be very creative. And in the real world, like in O.J. Simpson’s case, people have more and more been filing wrongful death cases, civil cases, if they are not satisfied with the verdict in a criminal murder trial. Not sure if that is such a great thing or not.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Double jeopardy is unconstitutional.
This issue is one of those rare black and white issues.
If you’ve been fount not guilty, you’re off the hook forever.

talljasperman's avatar

you should ask alex trebec

thriftymaid's avatar

Yes. If the crime was the result of an act that may carry a different charge, usually in another system, he may be tried again. An example would be acquittal for murder in state court followed by a prosecution and trial for terrorism in the federal court system.

Pandora's avatar

I’m not sure but I think double jeopardy wouldn’t apply if you were found guilty of jury tampering or cohersing or bribing anyone who has anything to do with your sentencing. Like a cop or judge.

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