How would a trial occur if two political bodies investigate the same crime?



In the United States, there is plentiful news of investigations of high profile people. In particular, some issues, like the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal have resulted in investigations from multiple political bodies.

Notwithstanding opinions on validity of an investigation or opinions on the issue I cited at hand, I was wondering about the following situation. Say two investigations, one from the Department of State and one from the DOJ, both organizations which are federal and operate under the same executive branch of the United States, determine someone is guilty and come up with an identical set of charges. These investigations are independent and have inherently different processes for handling things.


How would a trial proceed upon conclusion of these investigations, so as to prevent things like double jeopardy?


Posted 2018-04-30T14:39:13.940

Reputation: 4 592

3I don't think the State Department can bring charges. – Deolater – 2018-04-30T14:40:26.230

6Neither the DOS or the DOJ "determine someone is guilty of a crime". That determination is made by a judge and jury. – BobE – 2018-04-30T15:45:46.887

@Deolater the DoS does have some law enforcement responsibilities, for example in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and in the Office of the Inspector General. – phoog – 2018-04-30T18:48:00.420

To clarify in light of your other question on [Law.SE], the US attorney's office won't conduct an initial investigation. The FBI, also part of the DoJ, usually does that, but any federal law enforcement agency can also do it if the crime being investigated falls within its jurisdiction. If charges are warranted, the case file will be turned over to the US attorney for prosecution.

– phoog – 2018-04-30T21:10:16.663

@phoog Those agencies have law enforcement powers, but they cannot bring criminal charges. Only the DOJ has the authority to prosecute federal crimes. – cpast – 2018-04-30T22:46:30.633

@cpast hence the last sentence of my previous comment. The question and answers seem to suffer by insufficiently distinguishing the law enforcement function from the prosecutorial function. The fact that the principal federal law enforcement agency, the FBI, is in the same department as the prosecutors surely contributes to that confusion. – phoog – 2018-05-01T03:32:31.053



For a trial to occur, a US Attorney needs to file a charging document with a court. The attorney in question can do that either on instructions from the Department of Justice or if he or she determines that the facts presented in the whatever report the organization compiled and published confirm that the crime has been commited. The trial would proceed in the court of law in the normal matter. Mere publication of the report by any organization does not automatically charge the person with any crimes - no matter what charges the report alleges.

If the same person is indicted on the same charges in different US courts, normal Double Jeopardy clause applies:

Jeopardy attaches in jury trial when the jury is empaneled and sworn in, in a bench trial when the court begins to hear evidence after the first witness is sworn in, or when a court accepts a defendant's plea unconditionally.


Posted 2018-04-30T14:39:13.940

Reputation: 746

2A US Attorney would part of the DoJ. – Acccumulation – 2018-04-30T17:12:58.997


The State Department is not a law enforcement agency. Any investigation on their part would be for the purposes of determining either whether their policies have been violated (in which case the worst they would do is fired the person in question), or whether they should turn the case over to the DoJ. The State Department would not directly prosecute a case. Federal cases are prosecuted by US Attorneys, who are part of the DoJ.


Posted 2018-04-30T14:39:13.940

Reputation: 4 892

1In this case, State is the victim of a crime, not the investigator. Most government organizations have an internal investigative authority who handles legal matters both criminal and civil (employment issues) normally but not always called an Inspector General – hszmv – 2018-04-30T18:03:36.430

The State Department does have at least two law enforcement arms: the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Office of the Inspector General. – phoog – 2018-04-30T18:52:09.113