On 1995 O.J. was found not guilty in the famous murder case. This was in criminal court and after that he was tried for the same thing in civil court - except this time it was called wrongful death rather than murder. He was found "responsible" and ordered to pay $33.5 million in damages. How is this not double jeopardy? After being tried and found not guilty he was tried for the exact same thing in a different court.

This source says:

The catch is that the second trial involved civil charges, not criminal charges. The penalties are different -- imprisonment or even death for guilt in the criminal charge of first degree murder, but only financial penalties for the civil charges of being found liable for a death.

Just because you call it a different name doesn't mean you aren't being tried for the same thing. If this is an actual loophole, doesn't it allow resourceful adversaries to lock their victims into court battles indefinitely?

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    Read the Fifth Amendment: "nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb". "Offence" means a crime, and civil actions don't put the defendant "in jeopardy of life or limb", only of money. But at the end of the day, I guess all that can really be said is "it works that way because courts have consistently ruled it works that way." Sep 28, 2016 at 19:43
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    Your second bullet point asks a completely different question than the title of the post. If it's a real question and not rhetorical, please ask it in a different post. Sep 28, 2016 at 19:46
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    "Resourceful adversaries": yes, but courts do not take kindly to being used as tools in campaigns conducted by resourceful litigants. If someone files too many frivolous lawsuits, they will start to see their access to the court restricted. Also note that in the civil case, the government is not a party to the case, as it is in criminal cases.
    – phoog
    Sep 28, 2016 at 21:00

2 Answers 2


"Double jeopardy" applies to a criminal proceeding, that is one that needs to be proved "beyond a reasonable doubt," and involves criminal sanctions such as jail time. Once OJ was acquitted of criminal charges, he couldn't be tried again as a "criminal."

The second trial was a civil trial, with a "lesser" standard of proof (preponderance of evidence), and lesser "damages" (money, not jail time). So even though the facts were the same, OJ was accused of violating a different standard, that is a different "law" so to speak. He could be tried for a "tort" just not a crime. Or put another way, "wrongful death" is not the same as murder. The latter requires intent. Wrongful death suggests "tortious" negligence, but not necessarily intent.

  • One would expect that if a defendant is victorious in a civil suit, they could not then be tried under corresponding criminal charges. Do you know if this has ever arisen?
    – user6726
    Sep 28, 2016 at 23:52
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    @user6726: No, for obvious reasons. You get a friendly third party to sue you in civil court, they intentionally fail, and you would escape a criminal suit?!
    – MSalters
    Sep 29, 2016 at 0:19
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    But watch out for state and federal double jeopardy, such as in the Rodney King trial.
    – David
    Sep 29, 2016 at 5:13
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    Worth pointing out that you also can't be sued twice (by the same plaintiff) for the same civil wrong. This is not from the 5th but is a common law position (as was double jeopardy before the 5th).
    – Dale M
    Sep 29, 2016 at 10:02
  • Since the second court appearance was about civil damages, it wouldn't matter if it was murder or tortious negligence, the damages would be the same, and all what matters was whether Simpson was responsible for the deaths or not.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 10, 2019 at 22:29

When filed closely in time civil cases are usually delayed until resolution of criminal charges to ensure fair criminal jury trials. Civil cases then proceed once criminal trials are over...unless civil lawsuits are withdrawn.

Of course civil trials also allow endless retrials in higher level courts and changes in venue/jurisdictions etc. ... all assuming the next higher court is interested in weighing in on the case. Thus deeper pockets often "win" when facing an ordinary citizen simply by going to a higher court one more time than they can afford. So in fact civil cases only have "double jeopardy" versus the same plaintiff in the same court.

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