Navigating the criminal justice system can be overwhelming and stressful. Being arrested and charged with a crime can turn your life upside down. It is important to understand your rights and options to ensure the best outcome for your case. A not-guilty verdict can bring an enormous sense of relief. It can lift a heavy weight off of your shoulders.
This raises an important question: Can the prosecution appeal after a not-guilty verdict in California? The short answer is “no”—while a defendant has the right to appeal a guilty verdict, Double Jeopardy protections apply. Here, our California criminal appellate lawyer explains what you need to know about a prosecutor’s right to appeal a not-guilty verdict.
Double Jeopardy Clause Protects You Against Prosecutor Appeal of Not Guilty Verdict
A prosecutor cannot appeal a not-guilty verdict. Not in California and not anywhere else within the United States. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution contains the Double Jeopardy clause. It is vitally important procedural protection for a person who has been accused of a crime. The Double Jeopardy clause protects a defendant from being tried again for the same crime after being acquitted (found not guilty) by a jury. In effect, this means that once a jury has found a defendant not guilty, the prosecution cannot appeal the verdict and seek a new trial on the same charges. This legal protection helps to ensure that the government does not have unlimited opportunities to try to prosecute a defendant.
Understanding When Double Jeopardy Does Not Apply in California
The law is clear: Double Jeopardy protects you against an appeal of a not guilty verdict by a prosecutor—both in California state courts and in federal courts in California. However, this protection does not apply in every situation. Double Jeopardy protections do not apply in the following circumstances:
- Federal/State Charge Distinction: In some situations, an alleged offense carries the potential of both federal criminal liability and state criminal liability. If you were found not guilty in federal court, that does not necessarily mean you cannot be tried in state court.
- A Mistrial in a Criminal Case: A mistrial is a trial that cannot proceed because of a significant legal or procedural problem. With a mistrial, no verdict is rendered. The prosecution may or may not retry the case.
- Hung Jury: A hung jury is not the same as a not-guilty verdict. If the acquittal was based on a hung jury—a jury that cannot reach a unanimous verdict—the prosecution might be able to retry the defendant.
A Prosecutor Can Appeal a Criminal Sentence
Sentencing is a big part of any criminal case. As explained by the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, our state has comprehensive sentencing guidelines in place. However, the judge’s sentence is subject to some level of discretion in most cases. A prosecutor can appeal a sentence. In this type of scenario, the government must effectively argue that the sentence handed down by the judge is inappropriate considering the conviction. To be clear, a sentence would only be imposed after a guilty verdict. A prosecutor cannot appeal a not-guilty verdict, and of course, there would also be no sentence to appeal in the case of an acquittal.
Defendants Always Have a Right to Appeal a Guilty Verdict in California
In California, defendants always have the right to appeal a guilty verdict. However, it is important to note that there is a strict deadline to file a Notice of Appeal. If you miss this deadline, your right to appeal will be forfeited. Therefore, it is essential to consult with a California lawyer with specialized appellate law experience as soon as possible. Your criminal appellate lawyer will be able to guide you through the process, advise you on the strength of your appeal, ensure your Notice of Appeal is filed in a timely manner, and help you build a strong, well-supported case.
Get Help From a Criminal Appellate Law Attorney in California
At The Appellate Law Firm, our California criminal appeals lawyers are skilled advocates for justice. Reach out to us by phone or connect with us online to set up your confidential, no-obligation initial appointment. We provide criminal appeals representation throughout California, including Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Diego County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, Santa Clara County, Contra Costa County, Alameda County, Sacramento County, and Kern County.