Could Rittenhouse Face Federal Charges After Acquittal?

One thing many folks are not aware of is that double jeopardy, the legal concept by which an individual can only be tried once for the same crime, does not apply across jurisdictions. While it is exceedingly rare for the federal government to pursue a prosecution that was already lost at the state level, it is much more likely in cases when the defendant is acquitted. It is also more likely in cases where the federal government has a valid reason to pursue the charges under federal law, and the cases they do pursue after failed state prosecutions tend to be high-profile high-stakes cases like Rittenhouse’s trial.

The jury was made aware by the judge that if they convicted Rittenhouse on any of the homicide charges, it would reduce the likelihood of a second trial filed by the federal government. On the other hand, it increased the possibility that Rittenhouse would be convicted in this trial. In other words, the jurors were instructed as to the consequences of their decision. 

What Federal Charges Could Rittenhouse Face?

Rittenhouse can face federal charges for participating in a riot. He could also face murder charges, but at this point, it is unclear that a jury will want to convict Rittenhouse of murder. Federal law lists a number of potential crimes that would be prosecuted as first-degree murder under a felony murder rule. That means that the individual does not necessarily have to go out with the intent to murder someone to be charged under the statute, so long as they went out with the intent to cause injury. At this point, it remains unclear that Rittenhouse’s motives or character can make it into the lawsuit, but the FBI has gotten convictions on that basis before. Entering the fray of a riot is not among the felonies that would qualify an individual under the felony murder rule unless their explicit intent was to burglarize, which Rittenhouse’s was not. Nonetheless, the federal government could charge Rittenhouse with two counts of second-degree murder for those deaths. If they can strip him of his right to claim self-defense in court, then his defense would be over. He would, essentially, have no defense.

Did Potential Federal Charges Impact the Jury’s Decision?

The trial has been skewing the defense’s way since the judge excluded evidence of Rittenhouse’s character, such as photos with the Proud Boys and utterances indicating that he wanted to shoot looters, that could have contextualized Rittenhouse’s actions as the type of individual who would enter a riot for the purpose of causing harm to those who were protesting. As the situation was unfolding, the prosecutors likely told the defense that if they lost on the murder counts, the federal government would have a vested interest in ensuring Rittenhouse go to prison regardless. This spurred the judge to offer the jury some low-hanging fruit to convict on, with a jury instruction that if Rittenhouse is convicted, it would likely prevent a second trial. As Rittenhouse was not convicted of any homicide-related charge, there may be a second trial, but there is no assurance from the federal government that it will pursue this option. They simply do not pursue prosecutions in these cases. That does not mean that they cannot.

Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you are facing federal charges, you will need a criminal defense attorney who is qualified to argue in federal court. Call David Freidberg today at (312) 560-7100 to set up an appointment and we can begin preparing your case immediately.

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