“Double jeopardy” is a phrase that most of us have heard at some point in our lives. However, other than being familiar with the phrase, most individuals’ knowledge on the subject is extremely limited. Common questions include things such as “what is double jeopardy?” or “When does it apply?” or “How can it be of benefit to criminal defendants in Indiana?” In this blog, we look to answer these types of question and provide a brief overview of double jeopardy and look at how this protection can benefit criminal defendants in Indiana.
Indiana’s “double jeopardy” protection can be found in Article 1 § 14 of the Indiana Constitution. Specifically, the Indiana Constitution provides “[n]o person shall be put in jeopardy twice for the same offense.”1 The prohibition against double jeopardy has its roots in English common law, and historically applied as a procedural bar to successive prosecutions for the same offense.2 Over time, the prohibition against double jeopardy evolved to include a substantive bar to multiple convictions or punishments for the “same offense” in a single trial.3 Nonetheless, our Supreme Court has recognized that “[w]hile the issues raised by these two strands of double jeopardy vary, the ‘crucial inquiry’ remains constant: whether one charged offense is the ‘same’ as another charged offense to trigger the constitutional protection.”4
The Indiana Supreme Court recently revised Indiana’s double jeopardy analysis in criminal cases. In doing so, our Supreme Court clarified that Indiana’s “Double Jeopardy Clause should focus its protective scope exclusively on successive prosecutions for the ‘same offense.”5 Thus, the Indiana Supreme Court recognized that there are two principal varieties of substantive double jeopardy claims: (1) when a single criminal act or transaction violates a single statute but harms multiple victims, and (2) when a single criminal act or transaction violates multiple statutes with common elements and harms one or more victims.6 If one of these two scenarios exists, the court then goes on to examine the statutory language of the crimes’ charges to see if the statute allows for multiple punishments. If the statute allows multiple punishments, then there is no violation. However, if there is any ambiguity in the statute, the court goes on to examine the facts underlying the offenses. At this stage in the analysis, the facts of the case will control the outcome.
The takeaway from this blog is that it is important to know that you have the Constitutional protection against double jeopardy. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast answers as to whether double jeopardy is implicated in your case. Instead, it will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of your particular matter. Going through a criminal trial is scary and troubling experience. Moreover, individuals often times feel alone or trapped when they find themselves in such situations. However, remember that you aren’t alone or trapped. You have rights and you have options. If you find yourself in trouble, skilled defense counsel is crucial to protect your rights. This blog is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle the full spectrum of criminal cases throughout Indiana. This blog is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.