Can You be Charged with a Federal Crime that You Have Already Been Sentenced for in State Court?

Brittany Drexel disappeared in Myrtle Beach in 2009, and investigators believe that she was kidnapped, trafficked for sex, and then murdered. Timothy Da’Shaun Taylor and others are suspected in the crime but have not been charged. Instead, they charged Da’Shaun Taylor with an armed robbery that he had already been convicted and sentenced for in state court…

From a comment on Trial Theory’s “About” page:

Have you reviewed this case US v. Timothy Da’Shaun Taylor 2:16 CR 480
https://www.scribd.com/document/322491855/Transcript-of-hearing-for-Timothy-Da-Shaun-Taylor

Obviously, the Constitution Means nothing to S.C. Federal Court
Quotes from a recent article about this case.

“Apparently, double jeopardy means nothing in the federal system,” Peper told us. “That said, we have no choice but to accept a plea offer wherein Mr. Taylor will be pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit armed robbery for a negotiated sentence of between ten to twenty years in prison; for a crime that he’s already done his time on.”

According to Taylor’s attorneys, he’s being punished for “what he doesn’t know.”

The link is to a transcript from Da’Shaun Taylor’s detention hearing in federal court. I had not “reviewed” this case, although I am familiar with it from news reports. The comment raises a few questions that many people may have about this case:

  1. Does the Constitution prohibit a conviction and sentence in federal court for charges that a person has already been convicted and sentenced on in state court?
  2. Why was Da’Shaun Taylor charged in federal court for a crime that he had already been convicted of in state court?

Does Double Jeopardy Prevent a Federal Prosecution After a State Conviction?

It does not.

Because the federal government and state governments are different “sovereigns,” a conviction in state court does not prevent a later or even simultaneous prosecution in federal court. In fact, a conviction in state court makes a later conviction in federal court a slam dunk if the feds choose to pursue it, because the defendant has already either admitted to the crime or has been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

It’s not a good idea, and it’s not done very often, however. If the feds regularly indict and re-prosecute people who have been convicted in state court, no one would plead guilty in state court. Besides that, it reeks of unfairness – the whole point of the Double Jeopardy Clause is that it is not fair to punish a person twice for the same conduct.

So, why did they do it in Da’Shaun Taylor’s case?

Why Charge Da’Shaun Taylor with a Crime He’s Already Been Convicted Of?

There are several reasons that Taylor was charged in federal court for an armed robbery he had already been sentenced for in state court. One of those reasons is not that the U.S. Attorney’s Office just happened to look at his state-court proceedings and decided he wasn’t punished enough, despite what the government said in court.

Why was he charged?

  • They want him to “flip” on others who may have been involved in Brittany Drexel’s disappearance.
  • They “think” he was involved in Brittany Drexel’s disappearance, although they clearly don’t have sufficient evidence to charge him with it, and they took what they saw as an opportunity to punish him for it without actually proving his involvement.
  • They think that he was involved in Brittany Drexel’s disappearance and they took what they saw as an opportunity to get him off the street before he can hurt anyone else.
  • People who are feeling hopeless because they are locked in a cage with no light at the end of the tunnel are more likely to deal with investigators than people who are free walking the street.

Maybe Taylor or the others referenced in the transcript will be charged with Brittany’s disappearance and likely murder. Maybe they won’t – eight years have gone by and they still don’t have sufficient evidence to charge anyone. Either way, Taylor’s armed robbery charges in federal court, although unfair, are not a violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause.

Criminal Defense Lawyer in Columbia, Lexington, and Myrtle Beach, SC

The Thompson Defense Firm only accepts criminal defense cases. Call at 843-444-6122 or fill out our online contact form if you have questions or to set up a free initial consultation.

 

5 Responses to “Can You be Charged with a Federal Crime that You Have Already Been Sentenced for in State Court?

  • I think you’re right. That’s going to make it hard on defendants to choose a path if they think the feds are going to take advantage of the situation, which they will.
    If the feds even think there is a possibility of someone being involved in another matter, even if just having knowledge, they’re sunk, even if they are offered a sweet deal with the State.

    What Constitution? Look out. Here come the wolves of Pennsylvania Avenue…

    Do the SC Constitution and the National Constitution both have the Double Jeopardy clause?

    Chaz

  • DOUBLE JEOPARDY CLAUSE-WIKIPEDIA SAYS: THE DOUBLE JEOPARDY CLAUSE OF THE FIFTH AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION PROVIDES: (N)OR SHALL ANY PERSON BE SUBJECT FOR THE SAME OFFENCE TO BE TWICE PUT IN JEOPARDY OF LIFE OR LIMB 4 ESSENTIAL PROTECTIONS INCLUDED ARE PROHIBITIONS AGAINST, FOR THE SAME OFFENSE: 1- RETRIAL AFTER AN ACQUITTAL 2- RETRIAL AFTER A CONVICTION 3- RETRIAL AFTER CERTAIN MISTRIALS 4- MULTIPLE PUNISHMENTS.

  • “Because the federal government and state governments are different “sovereigns,””.
    Does that mean that the reverse is also true, that after a federal conviction, that the State can charge and prosecute and convict a person?

  • Chaz – yes. Because federal and state are different sovereigns, each can prosecute the same crime if they choose to, and it does not violate the double jeopardy clause.

  • What about the issue of jurisdiction? A crime prosecuted by the state doesn’t necessarily mean that the same crime is federal, does it? Don’t the feds have to prove jurisdiction over the matter (subject matter and in personam)?

    If the crime occurred outside of federal territories, possessions and federal enclaves, such as off of a military base, on SC public or private land, etc., then how could the feds get jurisdiction? The feds don’t have jurisdiction in all areas of SC unless ceded to the feds. Correct?

    Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *