The U.S. constitution’s double jeopardy clause generally prevents someone accused of a crime from being tried again for the same or similar charges following a conviction or acquittal. However, there is one glaring exception: Separate prosecutions of the same conduct may take place in both state and federal courts.
Although it doesn’t seem fair that the same offense should be prosecuted at the state and federal level, 170 years of precedent is hard to overcome. Just recently the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a man who said the double jeopardy clause was violated after being prosecuted by the state and the feds for possessing a gun as a felon. Citing the clause’s text, other historical evidence and over a hundred years of precedent, the court was not moved to change its course, although not everyone agreed in the 7-2 decision.
Writing the majority opinion, Justice Alito underscored that states are separate sovereigns as much as foreign nations are and that those who ratified the Fifth Amendment did not bar successive prosecutions under different sovereigns’ laws, especially in light of long standing precedent. However, some Justices called for a new look at whether the exception to double jeopardy makes sense. Those dissenting wrote that the majority had “violated fundamental fairness” and that “a free society does not allow its government to try the same individual for the same crime until it’s happy with the result.” Even a Justice who voted with the majority expressed reservations about the Court’s general approach to respecting what may be “demonstrably erroneous” precedent.
Facing State and Federal Charges for Same Crime?
Contact Experienced Waukesha Criminal Defense Attorney
What some call the “colossal exception” to double jeopardy is still something to fear for those who have violated both state and federal laws. State and Federal charges for the same crime, such as for weapons violations, drug offenses, or other crimes that have implications at both the state and federal levels, it is very important to work with a criminal defense attorney with experience in both state and federal courts. Contact criminal defense lawyer, Andrew C. Ladd for immediate assistance today at 262-542-3900.