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Once upon a time I was issued TWO citations for the same instance of illegally parking my car. One citation came from the property owner (it was a private pay-to-park lot), and the other came from the city. Both citations were issued on the same day within 5 minutes of each other. I paid to park in the private lot but it was a 2-hour limit (I was gone for 3). So I really am at fault here, but the city says it was a metered spot and I just didn't pay at all.

For brevity's sake I'm going to make a long story short. The owner of the lot filed for a summary judgement against me in municipal court. I contested it and the judge tossed the case because the facts were in dispute (whose property was I actually on?) and the property owner never responded. I thought I was done with the situation. The state has now moved to suspend my driver's license for failure to pay the fine.

Is this a Double Jeopardy situation? This case has already been in court and a judge has already ruled on it. Note that the license suspension specifically says it's for a civil traffic infraction, so this is not a criminal case.

I feel I kind of lucked out the first time around with not having to pay a fine I legitimately owed, but I may not be so lucky for round two. I should also say here that I live about 4 hours away from the city where this happened (I was just visiting at the time), so It's going to be very difficult for me to have to go back to appear in court again to re-litigate this thing.

  • There's res judicata, but I think that only applies to Party A suing you twice over the same matter, not Party A and Party B separately suing you over the same matter. – Michael Seifert Aug 27 '19 at 19:14
  • @MichaelSeifert yes, res judicatory requires the same parties. – Dale M Aug 27 '19 at 21:35
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Not the same way as there's protection against double jeopardy in the criminal system. If Person A and Person B both have claims against Person C, even if it's for the same act or omission, each of them can independently pursue those claims. Imagine what would happen if that weren't the rule: Whoever filed first would functionally be preventing the other one from recovering their claim. What's worse, Person A and Person C could collude (say, by presenting a bad case on Person A's side) and prevent person B from accessing relief that they're entitled to.

The way that the courts prevent abuse of the system by people who want to keep re-litigating the same issue is a principle called res judicata. But that's a principle that only applies when it's the same parties – say, Person A sued Person C and lost, and so sued Person C again for the same claim. This limitation protects Person B against any collusion or just bad lawyering on the part of Person A.

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If you're going to fight this -- get a lawyer

Double jeopardy does not apply here-- the government isn't trying you twice, the government and a private party are each trying you once.

Since you won the case civilly, there's a chance you could win it against the state as well.

BUT! Legal proceedings can be costly, and it may be in your best interest to just pay the fine and put all of this behind you.

Good luck moving forward.

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