Constitutional Law

Will Double Jeopardy Help QB?


The lawyer for Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick says he will fight new state dogfighting charges filed against his client, who has already pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy for a dogfighting operation.

Vick’s Washington, D.C., lawyer, William “Billy” Martin, said in a statement that he will examine new Virginia charges against his client and “aggressively protect his rights to ensure that he is not held accountable for the same conduct twice.”

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that such prosecutions are usually not barred by the ban on double jeopardy because state and federal governments are separate sovereign entities.

But a Virginia state law may present a bigger hurdle for prosecutors. It says the state may not prosecute if the feds have already done so—if both prosecutions are for “the same act.”

Vick pleaded guilty in federal court to “conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in an animal-fighting venture.” The state charges do not accuse Vick of conspiracy. Rather he is charged with one count of beating or killing or causing dogs to fight and one count of engaging in or promoting dogfighting, the Washington Post reports.

“The crucial question is whether the Virginia prosecution is for the same acts,” law professor Anne Coughlin of the University of Virginia told the Post. “It’s going to depend on how a judge construes that phrase.”

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