If a Crime Takes Place in More Than One State, Can Each State Prosecute?

If you are accused of committing the same crime in more than one state, you can be charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced in each of those states. The well-known “double jeopardy” rule only applies to being tried twice for the same crime in the same jurisdiction.

Some criminal offenses involve more than one state, and in criminal cases in which more than one state is involved, any or all the states involved can prosecute you for the crime. For example, if you are accused of transporting a stash of drugs from Florida to Georgia, you can face criminal charges in both states. Likewise, if you are accused of identity theft, but you live in Georgia and the victim lives in South Dakota, both states can bring criminal charges against you. Just because it is legal for multiple states to charge you with the same crime does not mean that it is an effective use of prosecutors’ efforts or resources. If you are facing charges in multiple states, the Atlanta criminal defense lawyers at Zimmerman & Associates can help you get the best possible outcome for your Georgia case, taking into account what is going on in the courts of other states.

The Fifth Amendment and “Double Jeopardy”

One of the rights that the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees to defendants in criminal cases is known as double jeopardy. This means that the same jurisdiction (meaning the same state court or the federal court) cannot try you twice for the same crime. If your case goes to trial and the jury acquits you, that verdict is irreversible. (If the jury convicts you, however, you have the right to appeal the verdict if you allege that you did not get a fair trial.)

The “double jeopardy” rule does not apply to two different jurisdictions prosecuting you for the same crime. In the drug trafficking example, if you plead not guilty in Georgia, and the jury acquits you, a Florida court can still prosecute the case, and the jury in Florida might convict you. Your criminal defense lawyer in Georgia can help you avoid this worst-case scenario.

Heath v. Alabama

In 1985, the United States Supreme Court ruled on the issue of a defendant being punished in two states for the same crime. Larry Heath lived in Alabama, but he traveled to Georgia to meet with two hit men and to pay them to kill his wife. The hit men abducted the victim from Alabama and killed her in Georgia. Heath was charged with murder in both states. In Georgia, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison, but an Alabama court sentenced him to death. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Alabama, and Heath was executed in 1992.

Contact Zimmerman & Associates About Complex Criminal Cases

An Atlanta criminal defense lawyer can help you exercise your legal rights in a criminal case, especially when doing so requires detailed knowledge of the law. Contact Zimmerman & Associates in Norcross, Georgia to set up a free consultation.