INDIGENOUS AMERICANS | LAW

Double Trials, Dual Sovereignty and Native Lands

When it gets quite possible to be tried twice for the same act under different sovereigns

Kemal M. Lepschoque, LL.M.
Friendly Legal
Published in
7 min readJun 11, 2024

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The Double Jeopardy Clause of the U.S. Constitution basically means you can’t be tried twice for the same crime. However, there’s an exception to this rule called the “separate-sovereigns doctrine” or “dual sovereignty doctrine”. This exception says that if different governments or authorities, each with its own powers, want to try someone for the same act, they can. Each of these governments is considered a separate “sovereign”.

For example, Indian tribes in the U.S. have their own governing powers, separate from the federal or state governments. So, if someone is tried in a tribal court and later the federal government wants to try them for the same crime, it’s allowed. This is because the tribal court and the federal government are considered separate sovereigns under the law. The same principle applies to state and federal governments being able to charge someone for the same act without violating the Double Jeopardy Clause.

Judges representing different sovereignties ⚖️🇺🇸 Copyright by author © (created with Canva assistance)

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A person from the Navajo Nation commits a crime on the lands of the Cherokee Nation and is tried and…

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Kemal M. Lepschoque, LL.M.
Friendly Legal

Lawyer | Traveller | Polyglot | 27 x Boosted ✨ adept at simplifying complex juridical concepts into human-friendly language & 60+ countries visited