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Frequently Asked Questions

When does jeopardy "terminate" (and what does that mean)?

Jeopardy is said to "terminate" at the point during a legal proceeding at which a person is no longer legally considered to be in jeopardy, after jeopardy had initially attached.

When jeopardy terminates in a legal proceeding depends upon how that proceeding unfolds. In a trial by jury after jeopardy attaches, jeopardy terminates when:

  • a jury explicitly finds the defendant not guilty,
  • a jury implicitly acquits someone of a greater charge by finding them not guilty of a lesser included charge and returning no verdict on the greater charge,
  • a judge grants a dismissal for insufficient evidence (usually),
  • in some cases of mistrial (but not a mistrial due to a hung jury), or
  • when an appeals court reverses a conviction based on insufficient evidence.

It is not when jeopardy attaches that the prohibition against double jeopardy takes effect. While a person is considered to be in legal jeopardy, many things can derail a trial in progress and result in a "do-over" for the prosecution. It is not until jeopardy terminates that the prohibition against double jeopardy, and the protection thereof, takes effect.


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