Double jeopardy and dropping the charges

This question is out there for all you lawyers (but anyone else is welcome to chime in)…

Consider this scenario:

Harry Hitman is charged with murder (a crime with no statute of limitations in most states). The main evidence is the testimony of Ernie Eyewitness, who was present when the crime was committed. However, before trial, Ernie Eyewitness disappears and is presumed dead. With their case essentially gone, the state drops the charges against Harry Hitman.

Fast forward twenty years.

Ernie Eyewitness comes back (he was in hiding for fear of his life). For whatever reason, he’s now willing to testify.

My question is this: Is a person “in jeopardy” as soon as he’s charged (and can now no longer be charged); or is the defendant “in jeopardy” only once the trial starts (in which case, the DA can start proceedings against Harry Hitman)?

Zev Steinhardt

I thought they actually had to be found guilty or acquitted of the crime. Not just charged. IANAL though, so I have no idea.

If I remember my bar review materials correctly, jeopardy attaches when the jury is empaneled (or presumably whatever is the equivalent moment in a non-jury trial). No panel, no jeopardy.

Jeopardy attaches only when a jury is empaneled to hear the case, or the first witness is called in a bench trial (a trial heard by a judge but no jury.)

In your hypothetical, it would not be double jeopardy.

Thank you minty green and Zoff. Another minor mystery in my life is now cleared. :slight_smile:

Zev Steinhardt

Damn, I would’ve thought this was about the movie Double Jeopardy. Was that a viable scenario?

Never mind, I just saw the other thread. Boy is my face red… :mad:

You have no reason to be embarrassed. I posted the thread about the movie seperately to prevent drift.

  I should have mentioned this thread in my own posting, since they are related; yours was first.

Ah, thanks for the clarification. I thought I was getting really blind there for a bit. Okay, my face is back to yellow again (yes, it is a race thing). :slight_smile:

BTW, welcome to the boards.