Double Jeopardy May Not Protect against State and Federal Prosecutions

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Consider the following situation: An individual is arrested and charged in federal court with violating federal laws against animal cruelty and gambling. After he is convicted and sentenced in federal court, the state in which the individual committed these federal crimes charges him in state court with violating state laws for his activities. At first blush, this appears unfair. After all, how can this individual face charges and penalties in both federal court and state court? Yet this precise situation happened to a famous NFL quarterback. Doesn’t this situation violate the prohibition against Double Jeopardy?

Protection against Double Jeopardy Does Not Protect against All Successive Prosecutions

The protection against double jeopardy is enshrined in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that no “person [shall] be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This means that, for instance, a person acquitted of a crime cannot be retried in the same court for the same crime. The Double Jeopardy clause also protects a person convicted of one crime from being sentenced multiple times (for example, a person who commits one crime cannot be sentenced to two or more prison sentences for that single crime).

The Double Jeopardy clause, however, does not protect individuals against multiple prosecutions initiated by “separate sovereigns” (different authorities or jurisdictions). Thus, for instance, an individual who lives in State A and, while living there, commits a crime against a resident of State B (such as a white-collar crime over the internet) can face prosecution in both State A and State B. Under a similar principle, an individual who commits a criminal act that violates both state laws and federal laws can face charges in both federal and state court. In the quarterback’s case, for instance, he was convicted in federal court and sentenced to a term of imprisonment; while there, he pleaded guilty to state charges.

Why Having a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney is Important

Some criminal defendants facing charges in both state and federal courts may believe that the defense attorney that represents them in state court can effectively represent them in federal court as well. “After all,” they may think, “if the charges in both courts are based on the same actions, shouldn’t my state criminal defense attorney be able to handle my federal case as well?” But there are significant differences between a state criminal case and a federal criminal case. Retaining an experienced federal criminal defense attorney is essential to protecting your rights and obtaining the best possible outcome in your case.

If you are facing criminal charges, contact a dedicated Chicago criminal defense attorney. Attorney Hal M. Garfinkel has experience representing criminal defendants in state and federal criminal cases. While his experience does not mean he can prevent both state and federal authorities from prosecuting a defendant, his experience does enable him to effectively represent his clients in both arenas, ensuring that his clients’ rights are protected. If you are facing charges in both federal and state courts, contact him today at 312-270-0999 to discuss your situation.

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