The concept of double jeopardy has to do with the prosecutors in a criminal case in Los Angeles not being able to charge you for the same crime twice. The rule basically is that once a jury is empaneled, that’s it – jeopardy attaches – and the prosecutors cannot file that case again. The only that could happen is it could be a hung jury. If it’s a hung jury, then the prosecutors can try the case again. But once double jeopardy attaches the jury is empaneled. If it’s a not guilty verdict that’s it, they cannot charge you again with that crime.
Where it gets diced is there are other crimes that are related to the crime that you get charged with, or if you’re charged at the federal level versus the state level. That’s something you’re definitely going to want to talk to an attorney about if you’re getting charged with a crime related to another crime. That’s basically what’s called a Kellet issue where you get charged with one crime and then there’s other crimes they could have charged you with. They don’t charge you. Time passes – let’s say a year goes by – all of a sudden you’ve finished your sentence and you’re all done with the one crime that you were charged with and they try to charge you with another crime. So, there you could make an argument. No, you had the opportunity to charge me with that crime. You knew about that crime and now you cannot charge me again.
So, double-jeopardy is an interesting concept especially when you start talking state versus federal. Again, if you have a situation where you feel like you’re being charged with the same crime you’ve already dealt with, that’s where you have to sit down with an attorney because there are all kinds of rules and law. The legislature comes out with the law – the law is not clear, it doesn’t cover everything – the next thing you know the prosecutors are filing a case and that’s when case law is established, because attorneys file appeals and the appellate court has to get involved and make decisions on how are we going to interpret this law? What does this law mean? How does double jeopardy apply to a state versus a federal filing?
For example, you get charged in the state, you get convicted. The next thing you know the feds have picked up the case and they’re charging you for the exact same thing. What if you’re being charged in two jurisdictions – the federal and the state jurisdiction at the same time for the same set of facts? In that scenario, typically what I’ve seen happen is the state will defer to the feds once they see the feds have filed a charge and it covers their charge, so to speak, that’s another issue. Then the state is just going to dismiss their state case.
But trust me, I’ve seen all kinds of crazy things happen over the course of the last twenty-five years and the bottom line is, you don’t want it to be you against the system. You’re not trained. You don’t know about all the rules related to double jeopardy and difference courts filing different cases. You want to get an attorney who can put in the time, investigate, research your case and fight for you and make sure that you get treated the right way. A lot of times what I do with these double jeopardy-related issues, a lot of times I can just talk to the prosecutors and say, here’s what’s going on. Here’s what you guys are doing. Here’s what these guys are doing. We need to fix this. This is not right. Don’t make me file a motion in court where I have to go in front of judge and try to get the case dismissed. Try to join cases, etc.
So, if you have a double jeopardy issue, or at least you think you have a double jeopardy issue, get in front of an attorney who has been doing it a long time, understands how the system works as it relates to multiple filings. I get you in the office. We sit down and go over everything. I get all the details. I find out who is in charge of the two cases – if there’s two cases pending at the same time – or I find out who is in charge of the new case after an old case has been dealt with. I get them the evidence that they need to see that they’re doing something that’s improper that they shouldn’t do. Trust me, the judges and prosecutors don’t want to do anything the wrong way. They want to do it the right way, but it takes a criminal defense advocate who knows what they’re doing, who’s been around the block and who has handled these double jeopardy-related issues in the courthouse where your case is pending, to get to the right people to get the case dismissed if that’s what is necessary.
So, first you need to get to the attorney, give him the details and let the attorney figure out how the double jeopardy issue is going to be handled and what the right way to deal with your problem is to get you out of the criminal justice system as fast as possible.
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