Is It Possible To Be Convicted Of The Same DWI Charge Twice?

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The Fifth Amendment of the United States prohibits people from being prosecuted for the same crime a second time if they were acquitted or convicted of the crime previously or after a certain types of mistrials. However, like pretty much anything in life, there are a few exceptions to the rule. If you have been previously charged for a DWI, here are the times when you may face a double DUI conviction.

Prosecution by Federal , State, and Tribal Authorities

The United States has what's called a Dual Sovereignty Doctrine. This doctrine states that in the United States, each individual state and tribal jurisdiction can enact laws detailing what is considered a crime, how crimes are prosecuted, and the punishment for those crimes. In criminal law, the federal government, state government, and tribal government are considered separate sovereignties. As such, it is possible to be prosecuted by each entity for the same crime.

For instance, drinking and driving on federal land such as national parks, military bases, and even parking lots owned by the United States is a federal offense. So if you're caught driving across a federally owned parking lot while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, not only can you be cited for breaking state DUI laws, you may face penalties for breaking the federal ones as well.

Realistically, the odds of this occurring are slim. Federal, state, and tribal governments tend to defer to one another depending on where you were arrested. For instance, if you're arrested for DWI in a national park or on military base, your case will be handled in federal court. However, for other federal lands that don't fall under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service or the military, DWI cases are handled by state courts. DWIs on tribal lands are typically handled by tribal courts.

Prosecution in Two Different States

The Dual Sovereignty Doctrine also applies between the individual states. If your single DUI incident takes place in two or more states, you could be prosecuted by each state for the same offense.

For instance, you drink in New York and then drive across state lines into Pennsylvania where you're stopped by state patrol. In addition to facing charges in Pennsylvania, the state of New York could prosecute you for DWI if the prosecutor can prove you drove under the influence while in the state.

The possibility of this happening is also low because of the challenges inherent in proving you were intoxicated and operating a vehicle in both states. Even if there is incontrovertible proof, one state may defer to the other for minor incidents. However, if you get into an accident and cause injury, death, or property damage, then you may very well end up facing DUI charges from two states.

Special Circumstances

Depending on where you live and how the law is written, you could face charges twice for the same incident from the same prosecuting office. Georgia doesn't allow people to be prosecuted for multiple crimes arising from the same conduct. However, the court of appeals in the state ruled that a man who was convicted of following too closely and then a DUI two months later for the same incident did not have his constitutional rights violated because the prosecutor in the case had no prior knowledge of the previous conviction.

Despite what the law may say or the low probability of a particular scenario happening, it is not so far out of the realm of possibility that these types of legal situations may occur. People find themselves in odd legal situations all the time whether because of misguided prosecutors or loopholes in the law that allows unusual charging to occur.  If you find yourself in an odd double jeopardy situation, hire a DWI attorney to help you develop a strategy for defeating the charges. Check out this link to learn more about this topic.