No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
The clause speaks of being put in
jeopardy of life or limb, which as derived from the common law, generally referred to the possibility of capital punishment upon conviction, but it is now settled that the clause protects with regard
to every indictment or information charging a party with a known and defined crime or misdemeanor, whether at the common law or by statute. 1 Despite the clause’s literal language, it can apply as well to sanctions that are civil in form if they clearly are applied in a manner that constitutes
punishment. 2 Ordinarily, however, civil in rem forfeiture proceedings may not be considered punitive for purposes of double jeopardy analysis. 3and the same is true of civil commitment following expiration of a prison term. 4
Because a prime purpose of the clause is to protect against the burden of multiple trials, a defendant who raises and loses a double jeopardy claim during pretrial or trial may immediately appeal the ruling; this is a rare exception to the general rule prohibiting appeals from nonfinal orders. 5
During the 1970s, the Court decided an uncommonly large number of cases raising double jeopardy claims. 6 Instead of the clarity that often emerges from intense consideration of a particular issue, however, double jeopardy doctrine has descended into a state of
confusion, with the Court acknowledging that its decisions
can hardly be characterized as models of consistency and clarity. 7 In large part, the re-evaluation of doctrine and principle has not resulted in the development of clear and consistent guidelines because of the differing emphases of the Justices upon the purposes of the clause and the consequent shifting coalition of majorities based on highly technical distinctions and individualistic fact patterns. Thus, some Justices have expressed the belief that the purpose of the clause is only to protect final judgments relating to culpability, either of acquittal or conviction, and that English common law rules designed to protect the defendant’s right to go to the first jury picked had early in our jurisprudence become confused with the Double Jeopardy Clause. Although they accept the present understanding, they do so as part of the Court’s superintending of the federal courts and not because the understanding is part and parcel of the clause; in so doing, of course, they are likely to find more prosecutorial discretion in the trial process. 8 Others have expressed the view that the clause not only protects the integrity of final judgments but, more important, that it protects the accused against the strain and burden of multiple trials, which would also enhance the ability of government to convict. 9 Still other Justices have engaged in a form of balancing of defendants’ rights with society’s rights to determine when reprosecution should be permitted when a trial ends prior to a final judgment not hinged on the defendant’s culpability. 10 Thus, the basic area of disagreement, though far from the only one, centers on the trial from the attachment of jeopardy to the final judgment.