Does double jeopardy and collateral estoppel apply where a state tries a defendant for armed robbery after acquittal in federal court?

Expert Answers
martinjmurphy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment protects a person from a second prosecution for the same offense, or multiple punishments for the same offense, by the federal government. The Fourteenth Amendment protects against Double Jeopardy in state courts. The question then becomes: what happens if a state and the federal government have identical laws?  Is it Double Jeopardy if a person is tried in a federal court and a state court for breaking these identical laws?  This issue is known as “dual sovereignty”.  According to the case of Bartkus v. Illinois, The Supreme Court stated that Double Jeopardy does not apply in such a situation. This is known as the Dual Sovereignty exception to the Double Jeopardy Clause.  In this case, the Court made a distinction between "same conduct" and "same offense".  For example, if a person robs a bank, breaking both a federal and a state law, the same conduct that violated federal and state law is seen as two different offenses.

Collateral Estoppel is defined as “A doctrine by which an earlier decision rendered by a court in litigation between parties is conclusive as to the issues or controverted points so that they cannot be relitigated in subsequent proceedings involving the same parties.”  The Courts have said that Collateral Estoppel does not apply in a dual sovereignty case for two reasons. First, the Courts have said that Collateral Estoppel only applies in a final judgment between the same parties. State and federal governments are two separate parties. Second, the Courts have said that Collateral Estoppel is embodied in the Double Jeopardy Clause, so if Double Jeopardy does not apply in a situation, neither would Collateral Estoppel.

badrlaw | Student

Yes and no.  The Double Jeopardy protection of the Constitution will not bar prosecution by the state and the federal government for the same conduct.  If both state and federal statutes were violated, then each sovereign authority has the power to prosecute, regardless of the other's action.  However, the trial court has the power to throw out a subsequent prosecution if it determines that the prosecutor of that action is acting as a puppet for the other sovereign authority and thereby creating a "sham" prosecution.  In addition, several states have statutes that will bar state prosecutors from bringing charges against a person who has already been tried for the same actions in federal court.

Collateral Estoppel merely prevents the same parties from re-litigating the same facts.  This will not prevent a state prosecutor from bringing charges under a state statute where there has already been a federal trial, because the state prosecutor was not a party to the federal prosecution.