In a major decision by the Supreme Court in June, the justices declined to protect defendants from being prosecuted for the same underlying crime in both state and federal courts. The decision, which will impact defendants in Georgia and every other state, involved a defendant who was charged with crimes related to firearms. According to the appeal, the federal charges violated double jeopardy protections described in the Fifth Amendment to the constitution. The lower appellate court denied the appeal, and the Supreme Court affirmed their decision.
Denying double jeopardy claims involving both state and federal charges follows more than 100 years of precedent. The majority opinion for the court stated that the defendant’s arguments were flimsy and that the historical evidence to support his claim was weak. A conservative member of the court agreed with the decision but wrote a separate opinion saying that the court should be more willing to overturn the precedents it sets.
The judicial philosophy that grants deference to previous court decisions is known as stare decisis. Some advocates believe that stare decisis deviates from the intent of the constitution, but others worry that overturning the practice could put some fundamental court decisions regarding civil rights at risk.
When a defendant is found guilty of criminal charges in state or federal court, they have the right to file an appeal. A criminal defense attorney may help their client decide whether filing an appeal is a viable legal course of action. Appeals are usually filed when the defendant believes that their constitutional rights, such as double jeopardy protections, are violated. In some very rare cases, these appeals will reach the Supreme Court.