Does Double Jeopardy Apply to Ray Rice?

Earlier this month, Baltimore Raven’s running back Ray Rice was accused of knocking out his fiancé inside a casino elevator after partial footage of the couple was caught on the casino cameras. The former running back pleaded not guilty to assault charges that was filed against him by New Jersey prosecutors and also applied for New Jersey’s pretrial intervention program, which offered him no jail time since he had no prior criminal record. The pretrial intervention program also offers first time offenders to have the charges that were filed against them be dismissed if they complete the program and meet certain conditions.

ray riceAfter Ray Rice agreed to participate in the pretrial intervention program, New Jersey prosecutors agreed to dismiss the assault charges that were filed against him if he completes the year long, supervised rehabilitation program. However, the prosecutors made this dismissal prior to the new footage that was made public on September 8, 2014.

The new video released by TMZ shows the NFL running back punching his fiancé in the head against a rail, which results in her becoming unconscious. When prosecutors first agreed to dismiss the charges, the only video evidence that they had seen was Ray Rice dragging his fiancé out of the elevator.

The question is whether the prosecutors can reinforce a new case against Ray Rice and retract their earlier dismissal since the new video shows clear cut evidence of domestic violence. Alternatively, would double jeopardy apply? Double jeopardy protects defendants from being charged for the same offense after there already has been a conviction or acquittal.

Since Ray Rice’s charges were dismissed as a part of the first offender program, the state cannot retry him or change his sentence. The NFL however decided to modify his punishment of a two-game suspension to an indefinite suspension after the video of the incident inside the elevator has emerged.

Commentators have argued that since the NFL made their decision on Rice’s punishment, they cannot retract it because it will be a violation of the double jeopardy laws. However, the NFL has its own system and does not have to follow the court system when making decisions. If there is no double jeopardy clause in the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, the NFL as an employer can modify Ray Rice’s suspension to anything they want.

It is difficult to say what would happen next for Ray Rice, but Ray Rice’s charges for domestic violent and assault has been dismissed and will likely stay dismissed.

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