How Double Jeopardy Protects Your Rights
The United States is one of many nations to forbid trying people twice for the same crime, using the same set of facts. This type of repeated trial is known as double jeopardy, a term taken from the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In essence, this states that once you have been found innocent of a crime, you cannot be tried again for the same crime without new evidence.
This rule is intended to limit the opportunities for the court to abuse its powers. Without it, the court could potentially try a person over and over again until a guilty verdict and a harsh sentence are agreed upon. Free of this restriction, the court would also have the ability to punish people multiple times for a single offense.
Even within the confines of trial by jury, repeating a trial over and over again can eventually lead to a much harsher verdict than the defendant deserves. It can even be used to put innocent people behind bars, a technique that could be used to suppress freedom of speech. It’s easy to see why this principle is so vital to a free society.
It is important to remember, however, that this does not completely prevent the possibility of a second trial for the same crime. Should it turn out that a trial has been mismanaged-for example, by illegal courtroom procedures like including invalid evidence-it is possible to have a re-trial. A new trial may also occur if new evidence comes to light that would have radically changed the verdict of a case. A good example of this is DNA acquittal for innocent people who were convicted of murder.
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