The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that no person shall “for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This section is known as the double jeopardy clause. Like all Constitutional rights, however, courts have struggled for years to decide exactly what the words mean. What counts as being tried for the “same” offense?
In a case called Blockburger v. United States (1932), the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a person could be tried for two very similar crimes, as long as each charge contained at least one element the other charge did not. Criminal charges are made up of parts called “elements,” and to convict a person of a crime, a judge or jury must find that each element has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.