The 1999 crime-thriller film Double Jeopardy, for some, might seem a plausible summary for the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The film shows the story of a woman wrongly convicted for the murder of her husband, who was later revealed to be alive.  Claiming that the Double Jeopardy Clause would protect her from further charges, she plans to kill him in broad daylight.rdf2

This is where the problem lies about the film’s interpretation of the Double Jeopardy doctrine. Though it’s true that the woman cannot be prosecuted for the same crime twice, she can still be charged for (finally and truly) killing her husband, since the murder took place in a different place and time than the other murder for which she was convicted. If the movie’s take on the doctrine is faulty, then what exactly constitutes Double Jeopardy and how can you be protected against it?


Defining “Double Jeopardy”


“No person shall…be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb,” says the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The provision known as the Double Jeopardy Clause prohibits all states and federal governments from prosecuting an individual for the same crime or imposing more than one punishment for a single offense.


Specifically, the clause provides protections for defendants against a prosecution for the same offense after an acquittal or a conviction. At times, there are clear instances when defendants can use the Double Jeopardy Clause as their shield. For instance, the state brings back a defendant’s previous charges despite being acquitted by a jury (regardless of whether new evidence had surfaced or not), or a judge attempts to resentence a defendant who had already served his punishment for the crime.


Limitations of Double Jeopardy


The doctrine of Double Jeopardy, however, only applies to criminal cases. As explained by an article from Nolo, the clause will not stop victims from filing a civil lawsuit for damages, or prevent the DMV from suspending or revoking driver licenses. Also, the government must place a defendant “in jeopardy” before the Double Jeopardy Clause can take effect.


Furthermore, the clause only guarantees protection against double prosecution or punishment from the same “sovereign” or government. To put it simply, defendants prosecuted by the state may also be prosecuted by the federal government for the same conduct, and vice versa.


Learn how to protect yourself from double jeopardy and seek help from a criminal attorney in Fort Lauderdale, like Richard F. Della Fera.



Is the movie ‘Double Jeopardy’ based on actual law?, Nolo

The Prohibition Against Double Jeopardy, Nolo Double Jeopardy, The Free Dictionary


Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for general information purposes only. Nothing should be taken as legal advice for any case or situation. The specific nature of each case makes it difficult to separate charges into clear categories.