Things I Wish My Clients Knew (Part 4)

(This entry is part of the long-running but infrequent "Things I Wish My Clients Knew" series: See Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3)

I wish my clients knew (so that I wouldn't have to repeat these words) :

Double Jeopardy? No, it does not mean what you think it means.

No, that's ok, I don't care what you think it means, you're wrong.

No, really, you don't have to explain it to me, I know that you're wrong.

Seriously, you're still talking about double jeopardy? Believe me, double jeopardy comes up SO extremely rarely, I'm pretty sure that this case isn't going to be it. And when the issue is there, I'll spot it.

Wait, before you say anything else about double jeopardy, let me say one more thing. Double Jeopardy will not keep you from being arrested again for the same type of crime. Just because you were arrested for Grand Theft Auto five years ago, double jeopardy does not protect you from being arrested for stealing cars ever again.

No? That's not what you were going to say? Really? Ok, fine, tell me. Tell me why you keep repeating the words "Double Jeopardy" to me. And it better not have anything to do with Alex Trebeck.

Wait for it... Wait for it...

Ha! Because you've HAD TO COME BACK TO COURT TWICE!?!? Aaaah, that's a good one. You're funny.

Ha ha ha! I can't stop laughing!

Wait, I can't hear you! I'm still laughing!

Now, seriously, that's not double jeopardy. You don't know what double jeopardy means. Please stop saying those words to me.

And if you came here looking for the definition of Double Jeopardy, I'll give it to you. Just because I don't want you bugging your lawyer about it, the same way my clients bug me. Here it is, courtesy of Lect Law:
DOUBLE JEOPARDY - Being tried twice for the same offense; prohibited by the 5th Amendmentto the U.S. Constitution. '[T]he Double Jeopardy Clause protects against three distinct abuses: [1] a second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal; [2] a second prosecution for the same offense after conviction; and [3] multiple punishments for the same offense.' U.S. v. Halper, 490 U.S. 435, 440 (1989).


  1. The one I always got (from reluctant witnesses) was, "Well, I'll just take the Fifth."

  2. Just to really show 'em, maybe you ought to point out that they can still be tried for the same act if it's by a different court. I'll take "Constitutional Criminal Procedure" for $200, Alex.

    So does this mean you thought that movie Double Jeopardy with Ashley Judd was a comedy? :)

  3. We're not going to discuss what "same offense" means for DJ purposes?

  4. So that Ashley Judd movie was full of crap right? I mean murdering your husband 5 or so years later is a different crime, just the same victim.

    I was wondering if you could give me some advice: I'm thinking about doing an online degree in criminal justice at a program like here: Online Criminal Justice Degrees . Do you think these programs are a good idea?

  5. Same offense means the very exact same offense - same date, time, place, victim, etc. Not just same type of crime or same victim.

    I mean, if you beat your wife and get arrested for it, get out of jail and do it again, yes that's the same crime (assault or battery), and same victim, but it's not the same offense.

    So, yes, the Ashlee Judd movie was full of crap. Clever concept, misleading name.

  6. .... and if you ever happen to have a Spanish-speaking defendant who thinks he might be facing double jeopardy, you can tell him:

    "Doble exposición" NO

    Court Interpreter.

  7. One of my law school classmates was an extra in Double Jeopardy. They filmed it while we were in school...

  8. On a serious note, I looked at the DJ issue recently for a case and it's darn complicated. Blockburger, while providing guidance, also leaves it up to state statutes for the determination to be made.

    One thing I learned (although I'm not sure I still understand it) is that Robbery 1st and Larceny 1st convictions don't violate DJ.

    Who knew....

  9. Yes, it's definitely complicated. Which is part of the reason why I don't try to teach it to all of my clients. (The other part is that it has nothing to do with them, usually.)

    A colleague had a recent case where the client had been acquitted on a federal trial of basically the same charges, and was being retried by the state. The question was (to put it simply) whether or not all of the elements were the same in all of the charges.

    But, the point is, 99.9% of my clients think it means that you can never be charged with the same charge again or something equally as absurd.

    And then they try to "educate" me on why.