Double Jeopardy Rule in Criminal Justice System

Categories: Criminal Justice

Where there is a beginning, there should be an ending. Like life, all procedures, whether judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative must have a beginning point and ending point. In a jury trial, jeopardy begins or attaches when the chosen jury is sworn; and attaches in a bench trial, when the very first witness is sworn. Eric J. Smith specifies double jeopardy as being positioned more than once in risk of being founded guilty and sentenced for the very same offense, being attempted twice for the same offense.

A criminal case nevertheless, might be re-tried without breaching the guideline on double jeopardy if a judge declares a mistrial (“Legal definitions”)

In criminal case, when the accused is either acquitted (autre fois acquit), or convicted (autre fois found guilty), or the case versus him is dismissed or otherwise ended without his express approval, by a court of skilled jurisdiction, upon a valid complaint or information or other formal charges adequate in form and compound to sustain a conviction and after the accused has actually pleaded to the charge, the conviction or acquittal of the implicated or the dismissal of the case will be a bar to another prosecution for the very same offense.

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Double jeopardy can be conjured up to beat a 2nd prosecution for the exact same offense (Aguirre, A., l995). Double jeopardy is dealt with specifically to crime. It is a constitutional right offered to avoid a second jeopardy involving the very same offense. The second offense upon which an implicated is arraigned should be identical with the very first offense.

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There is identity between the two offenses when the proof to support a conviction for one would be enough to require a conviction for the other.

This is understood as the “same proof” guideline. Hence, an act resulting in multiplicity of crimes is not covered by the guideline on double jeopardy (l995). Double jeopardy is among the most challenged and longest standing guideline in the English law which goes back in the 12th century. From it, other legal systems have developed. The U. S. Constitution has adopted the rule in its Fifth Modification (Deanne, A., 2003). It is a guideline of finality, the laudable function of which is to put to rest the impacts of the first prosecution.

Without the safeguard of this rule established in favor of the accused, his fortune, safety and peace of mind would be entirely at the mercy of the complaining witness, who might repeat his accusation as often as dismissed by the court and whenever he might see fit, subject to no other limitation or restriction than his own will and pleasure. The accused would never be free from the cruel and constant menace of a never-ending charge, which the malice of the complaining witness might hold indefinitely suspended over his head.

Since the advent of technology particularly with the use of DNA evidence, constant debates on the issue of the abolition of double jeopardy rule have ensued. There are pros and cons with respect to the abolition of the rule on double jeopardy. Guilty people are not punished as argued by pro advocates. Further, they move for the reassessment of the justice system, which they believe, must be free to allow punishment of guilty persons for the crimes they have committed.

They argued that the offense has not ended despite the passage of time; that guilt is the ideal criterion to charge a person whether or not he has had a previous trial for the same offense; that injustices are not perpetrated on the victims as on the accused (2003). Those who are against the abolition of the rule however, argue on the other hand that the double jeopardy rule does not only protect those “guilty persons” but protects everyone from the hazards of constant torment from the state.

Innocent people charged and acquitted will not be at peace with the acquittal where there is no assurance that the case has finally ended; that another prosecution might happen in the future. They argue that for a justice system to be working, it must provide an indubitably clear termination of a case. The meaning of rule of law will be less significant if it exist in a never-ending state of expected countermand. The abolition of the rule would result in the deterioration of the investigatory and prosecution processes because of an assurance that a second trial is available.

There will be no end to a fishing expedition of evidence (Deanne, A. , 2003). The rule however was not without any reformation. If there is compelling new evidence, a murder case could be retried, thus, resulting in the abolition of the double jeopardy rule on murder cases. The rule on double jeopardy not only enhances the ability of the state to prosecute and protects the integrity of final judgments but also protects the accused from the stresses and burdens of multiple judicial prosecutions. (“Double jeopardy”).


  1. Aguirre, A. (l995). Postulates in Constitutional Law II. 1995 Edition. Lex Scripta Suprema Publishers, Inc. , Manila, Philippines
  2. Deanne, Alex (2003). Double jeopardy rule, abolition of. Retrieved on November 7, 2008 from http://www. idebate. org/debatabase/topic_details. php? topicID=213
  3. Double Jeopardy. U. S. Supreme Court Center. Retrieved on November 6, 2008 from http://supreme. justia. com/constitution/amendment-05/02-double-jeopardy. html
  4. Smith, Eric J. Legal definitions. Retrieved on November 5, 2008 from http://www. macombcountymi. gov/PROSECUTORSOFFICE/define. htm#D

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Double Jeopardy Rule in Criminal Justice System. (2016, Aug 21). Retrieved from

Double Jeopardy Rule in Criminal Justice System

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