Double Jeopardy Definition

A rule from the Fifth Amendment to the U S Constitution that prohibits a criminal defendant from being twice made to stand trial for the same offense. A defendant is put "in jeopardy" once the jury is sworn. If the prosecutor moves to dismiss the case after that, the defendant cannot be retried. When a judge dismisses a case, however, a retrial is generally possible unless the dismissal was engineered by the prosecutor's misconduct, or there was no overriding necessity to dismiss the case. Double jeopardy protects defendants only for retrials brought within the original jurisdiction, which is why a defendant can be tried in federal court after being tried in state court. Double jeopardy does not prevent trial in a civil court on underlying facts that previously formed the basis of a criminal trial.