The Law Office of James Davis, P.A.

Double Jeopardy: Can I Be Charged in State and Federal Court for the Same Conduct?

Double Jeopardy: Can I Be Charged in State and Federal Court for the Same Conduct?

Almost everyone is familiar with the Fifth Amendment and its protection against Double Jeopardy. Most people understandably assume that it means what it says: That a person cannot be prosecuted twice for the same offense. Unfortunately, there are exceptions to the rule. One major exception is referred to as the “Dual Sovereignty Doctrine.” It is this Doctrine that allows a person to be charged with an offense in both state and federal court for the same conduct.

The Dual Sovereignty Doctrine Explained

In 1985, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor explained the Dual Sovereignty Doctrine and why it allows a person to be charged by the both the state and federal government for committing an offense even though the charges are based on the same exact conduct. She explained that an “offense” means the “transgression of a law,” and the alleged criminal conduct of the person is considered an offense against the specific sovereign whose law was transgressed: the state or federal government. So, if the conduct transgresses the laws of both sovereigns, both sovereigns have a right to charge the person with the violation.

For example, Florida and the federal government both have laws against selling a controlled substance. If you make one sale, either the state or the federal government, or both, may charge you with selling a controlled substance. You can be charged, tried, convicted and sentenced in Florida state court, and then be charged, tried, convicted and sentenced in federal court all for the same sale.

Another example is that both the state of Florida and the U.S. Government have laws punishing fraud against a financial institution. If the same fraudulent act violates both statutes, either or both the state and the federal government can prosecute the alleged offender who committed only one act.

If you have been arrested or face an arrest in either state or federal court, contact Jacksonville criminal defense attorney James Davis. He is experienced in defending clients in both state and federal court and will do all that is legally possible to obtain for you the best possible outcome.