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The protections against being tried more than once and punished more than once for the same occurrence predates the United States Constitution and is one of the earliest recognized principles of modern jurisprudence. Although the Fifth Amendment specifically enumerates double jeopardy as prohibited, the actual application of how this plays out has been the subject of many court cases and judicial decisions over the years. Some of the grey areas are more settled than others, and while the overall concept prevails, it may surprise some Florida residents what legal actions are nonetheless permitted.

Fundamental to double jeopardy is the rule that once a person has been criminally tried for and exonerated of a specific offense, he or she cannot be retried. The government cannot lose a case and have another bite of the apple, as the saying goes. However, legal commentators can explain that issues such as when jeopardy applies, when it attaches and when it terminates are not quite so clear-cut. While the rule that double jeopardy applies only to criminal or punitive actions and not administrative or regulatory concerns seems straightforward, how it applies may not be.

For instance, a driver of a vehicle properly cited and convicted of DUI faces criminal sanctions and penalties from the DMV, including loss of license and fines. Although this has been upheld as not violative of double jeopardy and exists as the standard in every state of the union, where an administrative action is found to be punitive in nature, double jeopardy may apply. Additionally, there may be a factual issue at the onset of a case whether a successive prosecution is targeted toward the same or a different offense emanating out of a central fact pattern.

Criminal law has complex legal issues, and important rights are at stake. A criminal defense lawyer may explain the potential options for defending a specific case.