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What the Double Jeopardy clause means for you

| Mar 4, 2016 | Criminal Appeals |

The O.J. Simpson murder trial was one of the most publicized and infamous criminal cases in American history. More than 20 years later, the case has returned to the public consciousness thanks to a TV dramatization. And now, in a new twist, authorities say in The Washington Post that a knife that might be connected to the case has been found.

As New Yorkers no doubt remember, Simpson was accused of stabbing his wife and another man to death in 1994. He was put on trial and acquitted the following year. The murder weapon was never found.

If this knife, which a police officer reportedly hung onto for years, is the murder weapon, it would seem that prosecutors could revive the case against Simpson. But in the U.S., criminal suspects cannot be charged for the same crime twice, due to the Double Jeopardy Clause.

Contained in the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, the clause protects suspects from being “subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This means that, once a person has been put on trial and acquitted, the government may not try him or her again. Certain types of mistrials also preclude retrial.

Double jeopardy protection is important, because it prevents government abuse. Without it, prosecutors could simply keep charging individuals with the same crime over and over until they get the result they want, regardless of the evidence and the strength of their case.

It is comforting to know that all of us have civil rights, but for a deep understanding of those rights and how to protect them, contact a criminal defense attorney.


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