Why is it that one act can get a person charged with more than one charge?
Many times I have had clients say, “I only did ____________, but they charged me with four crimes!”
Lets clear up a couple of misconceptions about this kind of thing. First, this is NOT double jeopardy. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, double jeopardy is “being prosecuted twice for substantially the same offense.” That is only part of what it is. The Fifth Amendment puts it more clearly. It states no person shall “be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.”
Simply put, a person can only be tried once for a crime charged on one set of facts. That is, a persona can only be tried once for hitting their spouse on April 1, 2010. However, if a person hits their spouse again on April 2, that would be a separate crime because it would be a different set of facts.
Likewise, hitting one’s spouse on April 1, 2010 could be other violations of the law as well. It could be a charge of criminal domestic violence, but it could also be at the same time a violation of an order of protection, and possibly a trespassing all at the same time. Since they are all different charges, it is not double jeopardy.
Second, the state gets only one shot to try a case (barring other things such as mistrials), but that doesn’t mean they have to try the case NOW. Say a prosecutor wants to gather more evidence before a trial, the prosecutor can dismiss the case before trial and reinstate the case later, when the evidence is stronger. This is not double jeopardy either. It is only once they have begun the trial and witnesses sworn that it would become double jeopardy to try the case again. I hope this helps.