A Chicago-area woman is facing charges for the murder of her mother in Indonesia. She spent the last seven years in an Indonesian prison on the same charges. She is believed to have killed her mother with the help of her boyfriend at the time. Authorities believe that the daughter and her boyfriend killed the mother and then stuffed her into a suitcase. The two exchanged text messages on how and when to kill the mother. The defendant has pleaded not guilty to the charges but waived a release hearing that would have allowed the judge to set bond. She will remain in federal prison until January when her next hearing is set.
Does double jeopardy apply to foreign prosecutions?
No. It is only intra-circuit, which can make things frustrating and confusing. If, for example, a defendant is charged under state law and the jury comes back with a verdict of not guilty, the federal government can step in and re-prosecute the charges. This almost never happens unless the issue is extremely high-profile and the stakes in a conviction are extremely high.
Specifically relating to the case mentioned above, even when a defendant is convicted in a foreign country of a crime, they can be prosecuted here in the United States for the same crime and usually are. The U.S. extends jurisdiction over all its citizens to anywhere in the world. That means that U.S. citizens who commit crimes on foreign soil are subject to both the laws of that country and the U.S. Logistically, it is quite rare that a defendant would be charged, convicted, and sentenced in a foreign country and come back to the U.S. to face additional charges. However, this particular defendant faces a life sentence if convicted of premeditated murder plus another 20 years for obstruction of justice.
Why doesn’t double jeopardy apply across sovereignties?
The U.S. government could tie its hands if a U.S. citizen is prosecuted in a foreign country for a lesser crime. It would mean that the government has no right to pursue charges based on U.S. laws for a more grievous crime. Noting that this could possibly allow some people to find crime havens where they can get away with murder, the U.S. government closed that loophole.
Enforcement of this rule is directly related to another rule, the use of double jeopardy across government powers. In this case, by government powers we mean state, federal, and municipal governments. Double jeopardy does not apply across powers. That means that the federal government can charge a citizen who has already been convicted or acquitted at the state level and try that case in federal court. For reasons of judicial economy and other matters, this largely never happens.
Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you have been charged with a crime in a foreign country, it is important to note that regardless of how your charges played out there, you can still face charges here. Call David Freidberg today at (312) 560-7100 to discuss your situation in more detail and allow us to begin preparing your defense today.