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3 things you need to know about dual sovereignty

On Behalf of | Oct 19, 2019 | Criminal Defense

When facing a state-level criminal charge in Texas, you probably feel great relief once your case is over. Whether you received jail time or not, knowing things are over is a lot of weight off your shoulders. However, there is something that could change that and put you right back in the courtroom facing the same charges once again.

You may wonder how you could possibly have to go to court for the same charges twice since the U.S. Constitution affords you the right against double jeopardy. The reason comes down to dual sovereignty. This concept is a little tricky, but here are three things to keep in mind about it:

  1. Federal and state governments are separate

According to the National Review, the design of the U.S. government is so that state and federal governments are separate entities. This is a vital point when it comes to double jeopardy because you are only protected from double prosecution from the same entity.

  1. Dual sovereignty is an exemption

The double jeopardy right allows for two separate entities to prosecute you for the same crime. Because the federal government and the state government are two entities, both can prosecute you for the same crime. Do keep in mind that the crime must be one that is both a federal and state crime.

  1. This is a long-held exemption

The Supreme Court has long held that dual sovereignty does not violate the Constitution. The reasoning is the state government and federal government are two different governments. This is a vital distinction because this is what allows the U.S. to prosecute a person who commits a crime in another country, even when that country also prosecutes. Without this right, there are many criminals in the past who would have gotten away with committing a crime simply because they did not commit it within the U.S.

While it may seem unfair and many have fought the idea of dual sovereignty in court, it is something the Supreme Court stands by.