The point of this question is about how double-jeopardy could potentially be abused.

Say that Bob is suspected of murdering Mary. If he is tried for this crime and found not guilty, then he can't be tried again for this case due to Double Jeopardy (if I'm not mistaken).

But what if Ivan the Incompetent was in charge of the prosecution for Bob when Bob ended up walking free. Any other prosecutor would've handily had Bob behind bars, but Ivan was just a complete idiot who happened to file the case first. Is any other party not allowed to take Bob to court about this afterwards simply because Ivan the Incompetent got to it first?

A mildly related example to consider would be Bill Cosby's case, where seemingly incompetent mishandling of the case resulted in his release, whereas a more proper team would have probably easily gotten him convicted.

Lastly, a question about abuse: what's stopping Bob from asking his friend Ivan the Incompetent to prosecute Bob for his crime and do a terrible job at it, so that Bob ends up getting off innocent and can no longer be prosecuted over it due to double Jeopardy?

Edit: Can someone get protection under Double Jeopardy for a crime by arranging to be put on trial with fake evidence that is then disproven? seems relevant. But note that I'm asking in particular about whether a very poor prosecution can leave one innocent for life of a particular crime. For example, if Charlie is poor and hires a bad lawyer to prosecute, and loses. But his brother Dave, who's rich and has good lawyers, also wants to prosecute Bob. Is Dave just out of luck because of Double Jeopardy?

  • collusion would prevent double jeopardy from applying, so all it does is make them guilty of a couple of extra crimes
    – jmoreno
    Jan 15, 2023 at 3:54

1 Answer 1


The prohibition of double jeopardy is about each sovereign getting only one chance at conviction for the same offence. If the sovereign handles their chance incompetently, they don't get another attempt. (The only "exception" discussed in user6726's answer here: bribery of a judge such that there was no actual jeopardy in the first trial; that exception has not been extended so far to bribery of the prosecutor.)

You ask whether "Bob ends up getting off innocent and can no longer be prosecuted over it due to double Jeopardy"?

Yes, but only by whatever sovereign conducted the botched prosecution.

The prohibition of double jeopardy does not prevent a separate sovereign for prosecuting the accused for the same acts, though, under their own criminal jurisdiction. This is why a person can be charged and prosecuted sequentially in federal court, in a tribal court operated by a Native American Tribe pursuant to its inherent sovereign authority, or in one or more state courts, even for the same acts, and even if the earlier prosecutions have resulted in acquittals.

Your wording reveals a potential fundamental misunderstanding of what a criminal prosecutions is in the United States. You say "if Charlie is poor and hires a bad lawyer to prosecute." But there is no need or avenue for Charlie to hire a prosecutor. The state (or tribe, or federal government) has its own prosecutors and is in charge of the prosecution as the sovereign on behalf of the people.

  • Has the exception for bribery been held not to apply to bribery of a prosecutor, or has the issue never come up? If a prosecutor were to rest his case as soon as a jury was sworn in, without bothering to call any witnesses, and it could be shown that such conduct was a result of a bribe by the defendant, I would not view the defendant as having been in "real" jeopardy, and would think the defendant's interference with the state's ability to present the case with a non-bribed prosecutor would partially waive the right to a speedy trial.
    – supercat
    Aug 23, 2023 at 22:56

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