Double jeopardy is more than a category on a similarly titled game show. It is a Constitutional law that protects people from being charged with the same crime twice. However, the law against double jeopardy doesn't apply in every situation. People who commit crimes across state lines can legally face prosecution from every state where the crimes occurred. Here's what you need to know about this situation.
Each State is Considered a Sovereign Domain
The reason why you can be prosecuted for the same crime in multiple states is that each state is considered its own separate sovereign entity, even though they are all part of the United States. This is why laws can vary so much between states, and why the federal government only intervenes in state matters under specific situations (e.g. the state is violating the Constitution in some way).
Thus, if you start the commission of a crime in California and continue the criminal act across state lines to Nevada, you could potentially be charged and prosecuted in both states. Additionally, depending on the type of crime it is, the federal government can also go after you when the states are done.
Avoid Multiple Prosecutions
As you can imagine, being charged and convicted in multiple states can lead to some unfavorable outcomes, including extended jail time, a crushing amount of fines, and a devastating impact on your ability to land employment and housing. Thus, it's essential to work with an attorney to either get as many states to drop charges as possible or have the cases dismissed.
This will typically entail a number of strategies. For instance, the attorney may convince the prosecutor in one state that the punishment for the crime in another state is sufficient to cover the defendant's offense. Since the prosecutor will have hundreds of other cases demanding attention, he or she may drop the charges if the punishment in the other state is more severe and there's a high chance the defendant may be convicted.
If all the states involved feel prosecution for the crime is warranted, another strategy may involve convincing the sentencing judge to allow any jail time to be served concurrently. This will help you avoid having to spend several years in one jail and several years in another jail for the same crime.
There are many other things that can be done to minimize the fallout from a multistate crime. Contact a criminal defense attorney for assistance and advice.