Saturday, February 11, 2012


How many times can our Government take someone to criminal court over the same set of facts? The answer should be once and only once. Otherwise a not guilty verdict at trial would have no meaning nor would it be an effective bar to Government persecution rather than prosecution. 

The 11th Circuit just found that the Government can't try a Defendant twice on the same facts when it reversed the Middle District of Florida, which includes Tampa, Clearwater & St. Petersburg, in a case based on the collateral estoppel. Collateral estoppel is based on a common law doctrine that the Government should not be able to try the same issue more than once if the issue tried is an element of the crime which must be proven and the issue was already decided against the government and in a way is related to the notion of double jeopardy in Florida. This common law doctrine originally arose in civil cases but has been accepted as a defense in criminal cases as well since 1916 in the case of U.S. v. Oppenheimer and is now an important element of criminal defense law for every Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney. 

The new Federal Court opinion from just five days ago in U.S v. EMILIANO VALDIVIEZ-GARZA noted that “when an issue of ultimate fact has once been determined by a valid and final judgment, that issue cannot again be litigated between the same parties in any future lawsuit.” After reviewing the transcript of the previous trial, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that, based on all of the evidence presented at trial and considering that the evidence of the remaining three elements was undisputed, “the jury's verdict of acquittal [in the 2009 trial] was based upon reasonable doubt about a single element of the crime.” An element of a crime is a fact or series of facts which must be proven in order to convict someone. The Court held that because the Government is collaterally estopped from arguing the element previously determined by a jury, it cannot prove an essential element of its current case and the indictment must be dismissed. If the Government wants to convict you upon facts from which you've already been found not guilty you should get help from a crime defense attorney.
If our courtrooms looked this good we'd want a second trial, maybe even a third...