Can I face the same crime in federal and state courts?

On Behalf of | Aug 28, 2019 | Criminal Defense

You probably know the term double jeopardy. It is right afforded to you that guarantees you cannot face charges for the same crime more than once.  Did you know, though, there is an exception to that rule? Say you face a charge for a crime in a court in Pennsylvania. You may also face a charge for the same crime in a federal court. According to USA Today, the Supreme Court does not consider this double jeopardy.

This ruling comes because of an exception written into the Fifth Amendment, which grants you the right against double jeopardy. This is the dual sovereignty exception. State courts and federal courts are sovereign entities. Meaning that they each have the right to try you for a crime.

The concern about overriding this is when someone faces charges for a crime in a different nation where they are found not guilty. In this case, the exception says the U.S. may also try this person for the crimes. It helps to prevent criminals from getting away with crimes simply because they were in the “right” court to get an acquittal.

Furthermore, it allows states to step in if someone gets a pardon at the federal level or visa versa. This can help keep favoritism or other corruption at bay.

The bottom line here is that you very well could face charges for a single crime twice. You may go through a trial at the state level and have to then go through one at the federal level. You could face punishment twice as well. This information is for education and is not legal advice.