Double Jeopardy: How the Seventh Amendment Prevents It
Updated: Oct 20
"In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law."
While most Americans associate trials with a jury, the incorporation of this language to the Bill of Rights is important.
One major point of contention between the colonists and the British was that the British mandated the colonists had to follow all laws passed, despite colonists having no representation. When Britain passed the Navigation Acts, it made it illegal for colonies to trade with other nations. However, colonists began illegally trading with other nations, and were swiftly punished. In a show of disapproval and defiance, colonists who were jurors often found the defendant innocent.
Thomas Jefferson voiced this grievance in the Declaration of Independence, noting that the crown deprived colonists the “benefits of Trial by jury”.
This amendment is a check on unrestricted powers of the federal government. It protects the right of the people to stand up in the face of unjust laws. By requiring a trial jury, it gives Americans the opportunity to have their opinion heard in terms of whether or not they believe a law is just, and this acts as a check on the three branches of government. Remember, the Constitution is a document meant to restrain and limit the government, not the people.