Last week, in a 7-2 split, the United States Supreme Court held that the “dual sovereignty” doctrine does not violate the Double Jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment. The Double Jeopardy clause states that no person “shall . . . be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” Sounds easy, right? Put differently, a person who has been subject to “jeopardy” via a criminal prosecution cannot be put in jeopardy again if that person has been acquitted of the crime. Or in even simpler terms, if you are acquitted of a criminal offense, you can't be tried again on the same offense.
Essentially, the dual sovereignty doctrine allows both the federal government and a state to prosecute an individual for the same conduct. As Justice Alito's majority opinion put it, “a crime under one sovereign's laws is not ‘the same offence' [under the text of the Double Jeopardy Clause] as a crime under the laws of another sovereign.” In other words, the Double Jeopardy clause does not bar a state from “prosecut[ing] a defendant under state law even if the Federal Government has prosecuted him for the same conduct under a federal statute,” and vice versa. The rationale behind the doctrine is that a federal "offense" is different than a state "offense" and that they therefore not the "same offense[s]" under the Double Jeopardy clause. According to the doctrine, both a state and the federal government are "sovereign," which is where the term dual sovereignty derives from.
If you have been charged with a state criminal offense OR a federal criminal offense, make sure you call the Law Office of Alex Kriksciun today!