You can’t be tried twice for the same offense. The concept of being free from “double jeopardy” is a right that has been recognized in law for thousands of years. The ancient Greek, Roman and Jewish legal systems incorporated the principle of double jeopardy in their judicial codes.
So fundamental has this right been viewed, that it survived even the ravages visited upon the rule of law during the Dark Ages. The right of a person to be free from being “twice put in jeopardy of life or limb” found its way into the core of our Bill of Rights.
Now, in the latest example of a liberal state government placing its hatred of President Trump above respect for long-standing legal tradition, the New York General Assembly has decided to weaken the protection against double jeopardy heretofore enjoyed by those within its borders.
First, a note of background.
In our federal system of governing, power is shared between the federal and the several state governments, with each constituting a separate and legal “sovereign” empowered and entitled to enforce its code of criminal law; even if doing so places an individual at risk of a successive prosecution for the same offense. Notwithstanding what appears on its face to be an exercise in “double jeopardy,” the U.S. Supreme Court has long permitted the practice (but a case currently before the High Court for decision could change that).
However, recognizing the fundamental unfairness resulting from this application of “dual sovereignty,” many states, including New York, have enacted laws that prevent state prosecutors from bringing criminal charges against a person if that individual had previously been convicted of the offense by the federal government. But last week, in a fit of partisan pique, New York’s heavily Democratic legislature decided to limit that protection by passing a measure that Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who wears his hatred of Trump like a red badge of courage — is certain to sign into law.