“Double Jeopardy” is Constitutional in a Dual Sovereignty Case

A trio of southern Utah residents are being charged twice for the same crime, otherwise known as double jeopardy, but since the charges stem from a dual sovereignty case it is considered constitutional.

Custody battle ends in murder

Photo by: Joe Gratz

Photo by: Joe Gratz

After years of custody battles between 30 year old David Heisler and 32 year old Kelley Marie Perry, Heisler was awarded sole custody of their 6 year old daughter Mariah. Less than two weeks later, prosecutors state Perry drove to Heisler’s residence with her friends 56 year old Francis (Frank) Lee McCard and 54 year old Tammy Renee Freeman. When Heisler answered the door, Perry and McCard physically assaulted him, dragged him from his house, then the trio drove him in his own vehicle to the Arizona desert where his lifeless body was discovered eight weeks later.

Utah, Arizona, and the Federal Government

Perry, McCard, and Freeman have been charged in Utah on felony kidnapping, theft, and burglary charges. Since the crime began in Utah and ended in Arizona, it is considered a dual sovereignty case. So not only do the three face charges in Utah, but the state of Arizona has filed their own charges including a repeated charge of felony kidnapping as well as first degree murder which could carry the death penalty. Not only are Utah and Arizona involved, McCard has been federally indicted and an indictment is pending for Perry as well. This means they may face even more repeated charges but at a federal level to boot.

Dual sovereignty case is not double jeopardy

dual sovereignty

Photo by: Ron Cogswell

While a dual sovereignty case may seem like a way to be repeatedly prosecuted for the same crime (double jeopardy), it does not violate a person’s Fifth Amendment rights to not “be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb”. This is due to what is known as dual sovereignty doctrine, meaning that more than one state or court has authority over the case. Although occasionally one state or court will give up their jurisdiction as long as the defendant is facing charges somewhere. This is not always the case though and it is important to know when dual sovereignty may take place. Dual sovereignty due to a multi-jurisdictional case can occur for a few different reasons. Those can include:

• When the crime occurs in more than one state. For example, the David Heisler murder which took place in both Utah and Arizona. This is also a common for crimes such as drug and sex trafficking.

• If there are civil and criminal charges, as they are not handled by different courts.

• When there are both state and federal charges. Both the state and the federal government can press charges in some cases. When this happens, the federal charges do not dissolve the charges from the state. This can result in someone serving time in federal prison followed by state prison or vice versa.

• If the crime occurred in a different state from whence the defendant or victim resides. This is a common occurrence with crimes involving identity theft such as fraud.

• If more than one federal court has filed charges against the defendant.

Defense lawyer(s) needed

When it comes to a dual sovereignty case, a person facing charges needs more help than usual. It is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can work to help eliminate dual sovereignty in a case or who is willing and able to operate across state lines or work side by side with legal representation in other states or federal courts where other or repeated charges may exist. Anyone facing charges that may involve more than one state or court should speak with a defense attorney immediately.


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