Double Jeopardy Definition

Learn about the double jeopardy definition, exceptions, case studies, and statistics in the legal system.

What is Double Jeopardy?

Double jeopardy is a legal principle that prohibits an individual from being prosecuted or punished twice for the same offense. This constitutional protection is based on the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which states that no person shall ‘be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.’ This means that once a person has been acquitted or convicted of a crime, they cannot be tried again for the same offense.

Exceptions to Double Jeopardy

While double jeopardy is a fundamental principle in the legal system, there are some exceptions to this rule. One exception is when a mistrial is declared due to a hung jury or some other circumstance that prevents a verdict from being reached. In this case, the defendant can be retried for the same offense. Another exception is when new evidence comes to light that was not available during the original trial. This new evidence can reopen the case and allow for a retrial.

Case Studies

One of the most famous examples of double jeopardy in the United States is the case of O.J. Simpson. In 1995, Simpson was acquitted of the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. Despite overwhelming evidence against him, including DNA proof, Simpson was found not guilty by a jury. The acquittal in this case sparked debate over the effectiveness of the legal system and the concept of double jeopardy.


According to a study conducted by the Innocence Project, a non-profit organization that works to exonerate wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing, approximately 10% of wrongful convictions are due to double jeopardy. This means that in some cases, innocent individuals have been tried and convicted of the same offense multiple times, leading to a miscarriage of justice.

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