Double jeopardy, the idea that someone can’t be tried twice for the same crime, is at the core of our American jurisprudence system. The Fifth Amendment states, “[N]or shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This clause has been interpreted to mean that there are prohibitions on being re-tried after being acquitted, re-prosecuted for the crime after being convicted, re-prosecuted after certain types of mistrials, and given multiple punishments for the same indictment.
Similar to the federal government, Indiana also has laws concerning double jeopardy. The Indiana Constitution in Article 1, Section 14 states, “No person shall be put in jeopardy twice for the same offense.”
If found not guilty of a particular crime, the accused should never have to worry about being re-tried again in the future. Even though that is law, it is not always the case in practice.
There have been instances where people have had to go to court twice for the same incident. The only reason this is allowed is because one case is tried in criminal court, while the other is tried in civil court. This is interpreted as not breaking the law of double jeopardy because there are separate legal standards that are applied to criminal prosecution and a restitution order resulting from a criminal case. Ind. Code 35-40-5-7 states, “A victim has the right to pursue an order of restitution and other civil remedies against the person convicted of a crime against the victim.” The criminal court system is not set up to handle cases that involve restitution, while the civil court system is not set up to handle the criminal prosecution. Therefore two separate trials are allowed for the same circumstance.
Another difference between the two court systems is that criminal cases require the accused be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, while most civil cases only have to meet a standard of a preponderance of the evidence to be found liable. Therefore it is more likely that civil case will be ruled in the prosecution’s favor, as criminal cases require a much higher standard of proof than civil cases.
One of the most famous instances of someone being criminally acquitted and then civilly liable is O.J. Simpson. He was famously acquitted of the double homicide of his ex-wife and her boyfriend in 1995, only to be civilly sued by the deceased’s estate. He was found responsible for their deaths and ordered to pay damages amounting to $33.5 million.
More recently, Nick Gordon, who dated Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown’s daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, was found civilly responsible for her accidental drowning while she was in a bathtub at her house. He was ordered to pay $36 million to her estate for numerous related charges.