Double Jeopardy: A Protection from the Constitution in Fort Collins
The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from “twice being put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This means the district attorneys in Larimer, Grand or Boulder County have only one chance to take you to trial and get a conviction. If a witness is unavailable or the DAs are not fully prepared, they will not get another chance. With so much at stake, sometimes district attorneys will drop the charges and dismiss the case, which the intention of reopening it when they are better prepared or have the key evidence they need. However, they do not just have an indefinite amount of time to charge a person again. They have to follow the Statute of Limitations (Limitations of Actions). If they wait too long and the Statute of Limitations expires, no charges can be filed and it will be too late for a trial.
When Does Jeopardy Apply?
Usually, when a jury is sworn in, jeopardy attaches. Legally, ‘attaches’ means this law becomes applicable to the case. If the defendant chose a trial before a judge and not a jury, jeopardy attaches when the first witness takes the stand.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Jeopardy Law in Larimer County?
Occasionally, situations arise which allow for exceptions to the jeopardy law. If the defendant, for example, intimidated a witness to not testify in court, this conduct would allow the court to re-try the case. Or if the case ended with the judge declaring a mistrial because the jury could not come to a unanimous decision, jeopardy would not protect the defendant from being tried again.
Also, it is important to note jeopardy does not apply if another jurisdiction is investigating or charging a person with a crime under different laws. For instance, the Federal Court may bring up Theft charges, even after being acquitted of Theft charges in Fort Collins, Boulder, or Loveland. This is because the federal court system has different laws than state laws, so technically the person is not being charged with the exact same crime.