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Double Jeopardy

Double jeopardy is prohibited in the Fifth Amendment to the American constitution, which states that no individual should be put in jeopardy twice for the same act (Wells, 2012). This concept prohibits the government from charging a person more than one time for the same offense. Although this amendment forbids different prosecutions for the same crime, it does not protect a suspect from numerous prosecutions for numerous crimes. A good example of a case where this amendment was applied is United States v. Ursery, 518 US 267 case in1996 (Wells, 2012). A lesser-included crime shares; several, but not all of the components of a greater criminal felony. The canons of Criminal Procedure authorize two or more crimes to be prosecuted jointly, irrespective of whether they are misdemeanors, as long as the offenses are of a comparable character and founded on the similar act or general plan. This allows prosecutors to charge the greater felony and the lesser-included crime jointly (Wells, 2012). Lesser-included crimes do not contravene double jeopardy protection since the accused cannot be found culpable of both crimes because they are both parts of the same offense.

The double jeopardy concept protects only against multiple trials or sentencing by the same government. Even though the exact same demeanor is at issue, a state charging someone does not stop the national government from doing the same. An illustration of this is the national government prosecution of the police officers who beat Rodney King (Poulin, 2006). The videotaped officers were prosecuted through California State, but the state was not able to obtain any conviction. The national government later prosecuted them for the same act, alleging an infringement of King’s civil freedom. The convictions of the national government were valid since separate sovereigns had examined the officers (Poulin, 2006). A single conduct may breach the laws of two different sovereigns, and a suspect may be proceeded against by both states since each may have dissimilar interests to serve. The same act may contravene two or more varied statutes or may breach the same act more than once, for example when a person robs numerous people in a crowd at the same time.


Poulin, A. B. (2006). Double Jeopardy and Multiple Punishment: Cutting the Gordian Knot. U. Colo. L. Rev., 77, 595.

Wells, A. C. (2012). Multiple-Punishment and the Double Jeopardy Clause: The United States v. Ursery Decision. St. John’s Law Review, 71(1), 5.