Many have heard the term double jeopardy in regard to criminal matters. Before our US Constitution was written, those accused of crimes could expect to be tried time and time again until a conviction was achieved. Double jeopardy rules, found in our Fifth Amendment, attempt to block the state from charging and trying a defendant for the same crime again. This rule, however, may not afford complete protection in every case. Read on to find out more.

What Protections Are Afforded By Double Jeopardy Laws?

A staggering number of legal protections are offered to those accused of a crime, and it's all too easy to take some of those rights for granted. Such is the double jeopardy rule. In the instance of a legal matter, the term jeopardy means risk. You should not be at risk of being tried for a crime more than once. This is an old rule, and the way prosecutors avoid violating it usually means an all-out effort to obtain a conviction the first — and perhaps only — time around. There are several parts to the rule and, as always with legal matters, some notable exceptions. Take a look at what else you need to know about double jeopardy:

1. You cannot be tried twice for the same crime, but that is only if you were not convicted. If you were found innocent (or acquitted), you cannot be tried again.

2. If a trial ends in a mistrial, you can and usually will be tried again for the same crime. That is not considered a violation of the double jeopardy rule.

3. You should not have additional punishments (or sentencing) added on once the sentence is handed down unless you commit additional crimes. For example, if you are sent to prison for 10 years after being found guilty of a crime, that sentence can be added to if you commit more crimes while incarcerated.

4. Charges are often worded as counts, and the word "counts" provides prosecutors with a lot of flexibility and opportunities to make the charges stick. You might hear of someone accused of one or two counts of drug distribution. If the defendant fails to be convicted on those two counts, the state has the option of trying the defendant on additional counts held in reserve for just such a purpose. Since the exact circumstances (the date, the victim, the drug) are different with each count, it's not technically double jeopardy.

5. In a related exception, a defendant may be accused of murdering more than one person, but they are tried for only one murder at a time. That gives the state a chance to try the defendant again if the first murder fails to convict them.

If you have been charged with a serious criminal matter, you need someone who understands the law and all the tiny details and exceptions that go with it. Speak to a criminal lawyer to find out more.