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Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers > Blog > Theft > When Does “Double Jeopardy” Apply in Georgia?

When Does “Double Jeopardy” Apply in Georgia?


The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that no person may be “subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” Known as the double jeopardy rule, in simple terms this means the government cannot try you a second time on a criminal charge if you have already been acquitted of the same charge. Georgia law contains even more comprehensive double jeopardy protections that restrict the state’s ability to charge multiple crimes arising from the same conduct.

For instance, under OCGA § 16-1-8, a Georgia prosecution is barred if the accused was previously prosecuted for a different crime from the same conduct, the second crime was known to the prosecution when they prosecuted the first time, and both crimes were within the jurisdiction of the same court. Essentially, if a prosecutor believes that a defendant committed multiple crimes as part of the same course of conduct, all charges must be brought in a single prosecution.

Georgia Defendant to Stand Trial for Rape Despite Earlier Prosecution

That said, what constitutes the “same course of conduct” will depend on the specific facts of a criminal case. Even in a scenario where prosecutors believe multiple crimes occurred on the same day–and even involving the same victim–it may be possible to classify them as separate “conduct” for purposes of Georgia’s double jeopardy rules.

Take this recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Abercrombie v. State. In this case, prosecutors alleged the defendant entered a woman’s apartment on a specific day and raped her. The defendant allegedly told the woman as he left the apartment, “Call the cops. I’m going to be back.”

The victim went to a family member’s house and contacted the police. She later returned to her apartment that same day and found several items of personal property missing. Prosecutors later charged the defendant with these thefts. Initially, he was charged only with the thefts and not the rape.

After pleading guilty to burglary and theft, the state initiated a second prosecution for the rape. The defendant argued this violated Georgia’s double jeopardy rule and sought to bar the prosecution. The trial denied this motion, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. As the appellate court explained, prosecutors had alleged a sufficient “break in the action” between the alleged rape and the admitted thefts to consider these separate courses of criminal conduct. As such, the rape prosecution was not barred simply because the state failed to present those charges at the same time as the earlier theft prosecution.

Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today

If you are facing multiple criminal charges arising from one or more incidents, you need to take the matter seriously. A qualified Georgia theft lawyer can advise you of your rights and help ensure that you receive a fair trial. Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.

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