Det. Lenny Briscoe: So he gets off for killing the cop, but gets nailed for killing a cop killer?Sometimes the detectives/prosecutors have found out who the true culprit is, but there is simply not enough evidence to arrest/convict the perp. However, sometimes the heroes demonstrate there are other ways to make the guilty pay that do not involve going outside the law themselves. For instance:
DA Jack McCoy: An irony he can reflect on for the next forty years in Attica.
DA Jack McCoy: An irony he can reflect on for the next forty years in Attica.
- Justice by Insurance: In this case, the criminal has gotten a big payout from the insurance company related to the crime he actually caused. In this conclusion, while the justice system's hands are tied, the evidence presented is enough for the insurance company to take back their money saying that it was obviously claimed under criminal circumstances. Of course, the criminal could be stupid enough to sue, but that means his crime could be fully revealed and he is really sunk.
- Justice by Lawsuit: The prosecutor was not able to convict the criminal, but the evidence amassed could be given to the victim and/or his family as good enough grounds to sue the criminal for everything they have in civil court.
- Justice by Diplomatic Intervention: The criminal could skip the country or claim diplomatic immunity by his own nation, unaware that their government wants to haul him into their own courts and all they have to do is use the other country's court records to nail him to the wall.
- Justice for Another Crime: The criminal can't be indicted for one crime, but he or she can get nailed for another. Tax Evasion instead of murder, for example. This one is often Truth in Television. May also be the discovery they had committed Felony Murder. If the convicted crime in question is disproportionately minor, it may overlap with Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life or Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot. This is also why most court cases have a litany of charges, so that the jury can deliberate over all of them at once rather than having a Not Guilty verdict for the most serious offense and have Jeopardy become attached.
- Multiple Courts: Many countries prohibit or restrict double jeopardy, i.e. multiple trials for the same crime. However, common law permits cases where multiple jurisdictions have sovereignty, for example a case that could be tried in the courts of multiple states or provinces, or a state court and a national court, to be retried in other jurisdictions if the suspect is acquitted on the first attempt. (Some countries also permit retrial if new evidence is found, but strictly speaking that is Not an Example.)
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Anime and Manga
- In a filler episode of Dragon Ball Z, Gohan successfully rescues a baby dinosaur from an evil circus owner who had abducted and was abusing it. As he flies away, the circus owner points out that he knows where the dinosaur's nest is: there's nothing stopping him from going back and stealing the dino again. The police further admit that capturing a baby animal for use in the circus is entirely legal... but the circus owner had, during the fight, taken a police officer's gun in an attempt to shoot the dino's angry parents. And taking an officer's handgun is a criminal offense.
- In Shaman's Tears, Joshua Brand is unable to arrest the Corrupt Corporate Executive for various crimes because the victims (genetically engineered lifeforms) are not technically human. So he instead arrests him for violating the Endangered Species Act after he realizes one of the genetically engineered constructs was created using the DNA of a black-footed ferret.
- In the 600th issue of Amazing Spider-Man, the Bar with No Name is shut down not for harboring criminals (which it does, but they all have already fled by the time the cops arrived), but for not having a liquor license.
- At the end of the Judge Dredd arc The Pit, Dredd has no evidence to convict Fonzo Bongo on being the head of his sector's branch of the Frendz crime syndicate. What Dredd does have, thanks to an observant rookie, is several hundred unpaid parking tickets in Bongo's name, earning him a sentence of twenty five years. Joe has done this on a few other occasions as well, notably in an old Daily Star newspaper strip he can't prove a crime boss sent a bomb to kill him, but he can get the guy for illegal parking. Since Dredd has no intention of towing the offending car it will still be illegally parked when the boss gets out (after thirty days) and so the boss will essentially serve a life sentence for parking rather than attempted Judge killing. Once he hears this the crook promptly confesses on the grounds that if he's going away anyway he isn't doing life for parking offenses.
- In the final issue of the C.O.P.S. comic book, the team went after Big Boss for an unpaid parking ticket, knowing that his gang would try to stop themand racking up tons of charges they could pin on the previously untouchable Big Boss.
- In Low Life, Nixon can't prove that Tyrone Appleby of Lo-Cal is guilty of brainwashing and murdering rich fatties to take all their money. She collars him for soliciting a prostitute (herself) instead.
- Mr. Mastermind makes his debut in the comic book version of Dynomutt Dog Wonder by holding the city hostage over the $ 1.47 fine he had to pay for a 49-day overdue library book. When Blue Falcon and Dynomutt find his hideout, he blows it up so there won't be any proof to get him arrested for the crime. Unfortunately, for him, he's 49 years overdue with another library book and ends up being arrested for it. He's so ego driven he considers it worse than being arrested for the main crime.
- The Untouchables presents a good (although hardly perfectly realistic) depiction of how Al Capone, a notorious crime boss, was well-known to be guilty of crimes up to and including murder, yet since no-one could stick it to him, he was arrested for tax evasion.
- In Tapeheads, the main characters get revenge on a Sleazy Politician by broadcasting a Home Porn Movie of him on live TV, which gets them arrested by the FBI. They're acquitted of the crime, but go to jail anyway for outstanding traffic warrants.
- In Yellowbeard, the narrator at the beginning, after giving a laundry list of the title character's atrocities, including tearing men's hearts out and swallowing them whole, says, "Often forcing men to eat their own lips, he was eventually caught and imprisoned — for tax evasion."
- Played for Laughs in The Campaign: Congressman Marty Huggins can't jail the Motch Brothers for their unethical campaign practices, because a lot of what they did was made legal by Citizens United. They instead go to jail for harboring Tim Wattley, who was really an international fugitive.
- In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Bolivar Trask never suffers legal reprisal for planning to commit genocide on his fellow human beings due to intense Fantastic Racism in the American legal system at the time. Instead, he goes to prison for trying to pitch his killer robots to the Communist governments after America turns him down.
- In Zootopia Judy is frustrated to find that Nick's "pawpsicle hustle" stays within the letter of the law, since he has a vendor's license and cross-district commerce permit, and he said the used sticks were "red wood", with a space. However, when she later needs his help on a case she finds he didn't report any income on his tax forms and is to record him bragging about the income he makes from his hustles. This enables her to use a charge of tax evasion to pressure him into helping her.
- The Firm: The conflict of the movie is newcomer lawyer Mitch Mc Deere being in the middle of a conundrum: he can either rat on the criminal activities of the Amoral Attorney firm he works for and every client that it is associated with (which includes The Mafia) and get disbarred and most probably have to go into Witness Protection and/or get killed (which is the option the FBI is trying to force him to take) or do nothing and risk jail time for criminal obstruction. Mitch successfully ensnares the firm by using lawyer-client privilege to reach an agreement with the Moralto mob while proving every legal partner was guilty of overbilling their clients (a federal offense that will send everybody who did it straight to jail without the standard circus), thus allowing him to keep his status as a lawyer.
Mitch: It's not sexy, but it's got teeth! Ten thousand dollars and five years in prison. That's ten and five for each act. Have you really looked at that? You've got every partner in the firm on overbilling. There's two hundred-fifty acts of documented mail fraud there. That's racketeering! That's minimum: 1250 years in prison and half a million dollars in fines. That's more than you had on Capone.
- This is how Walt of Gran Torino ultimately deals with the vicious gang that terrorized the Vang Lor family and raped Sue. After loudly berating them and enumerating their crimes for everyone in the community to hear, he tricks them into gunning him down in broad daylight, getting them all arrested for murder.
- This looks like it's going to be the case in Seven Days in May. President Jordan Lyman knows the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Scott, is planning a coup, but has no solid evidence. However, Lyman has letters from the general's mistress that he could use to blackmail him into resigning. In the end the President refuses to use such an underhanded method. Fortunately, a missing piece of evidence turns up at the last minute, and Scott is forced to resign when all his co-conspirators abandon him. And in the novel, two of Lyman's allies use the letters to force Scott to abandon politics forever.
- In the gangster spoof Dickie Dick Dickens, our Villain Protagonist ends the first volume being arrested for bigamy, the result of an attempt to get a new identity going south.
- The Lincoln Lawyer discussed the trope with a client charged with attempted rape. The eponymous lawyer was worried that, even if his client isn't convicted, his victim would be able to sue him. In the end, the client got away when the prison snitch called by the prosecutor to testify wasn't a reliable witness, forcing a mistrial, but the police decided to investigate his claims that the client had previously raped and killed another girl and framed an innocent man. It turns out to be true and he was convicted for that. Just as planned.
- Brought up, with a traditional Wraith Squadron twist, in the X-Wing novel Mercy Kill. A Galactic Alliance general is suspected of belonging to a conspiracy to put The Empire back in charge, and the Wraiths are trying to find evidence of his treason. In the process, they find ample evidence of his smuggling and profiteering by selling off Alliance military property (including an Elaborate Underground Base full of contraband), and they consider setting him up to be prosecuted on this charge. However, they decide it would be too easy for him to claim that a junior officer was behind the whole thing, particularly since he recently "retained" the services of a master identity forger. The Wraiths continue to look for evidence before he can undergo a lengthy, but flawless transformation into his new identity. Then Piggy has an epiphany — the general has already undergone the process (so that he can disappear at moment's notice if need be) but is using prosthetics to masquerade as his old self in order to hunt them down. So they gather up a bunch of witnesses and reveal his "true" identity, thereby framing the general for murdering and impersonating... himself.
- In After The Golden Age, the supervillain Destructor is ultimately arrested not for any of his attempts to destroy Commerce City, but on charges of fraud, tax evasion, and money laundering.
- In The Firm when the FBI pressures Mitch McDeere to reveal his firm's shady dealings with the mob (which would violate attorney-client privilege and cost him his license, not to mention put his life in danger), he instead finds a way around it: He gives the FBI evidence that the firm is ripping off its clients by overcharging them, thus allowing the feds to prosecute fully without angering the mob.
- The Crowner John Mysteries: In Crowner's Quest, John realises there is little chance of his actually bringing the two murderers to trial. So he instead takes another legal option and challenges the knight to trial by combat, acting as the champion of the 13 year old son of one of their victims.
- Alexis Carew: Mutineer: To spare the Navy the embarrassment of Captain Neals' behavior becoming public, the Court Martial acquits him of wrongdoing in the loss of HMS Hermione due to the mutiny and puts a gag order on the proceedings. However, Alexis and the mutineersnote are also summarily acquitted due to the extenuating circumstances of Neals's abusive treatment of his crew, especially Alexis, and Neals is effectively retired from service for psychiatric reasons and will never command anything unsupervised ever again, certainly not another ship. To top it off, the captains on the tribunal restore Alexis to the rank of midshipman (Neals had stripped her of her commission for refusing an illegal order), then immediately test her for lieutenant and promote her, and the Navy rumor mill means word of what happened still gets out in spite of the gag order.
Live Action TV
- Common in the CSI Verse. In one case, someone was cleared of murder during a burglary but discovered to be guilty of Felony Murder.
- In another case, the perp initally got away with murder by framing his victim for the sexual assault of his 12 year old daughter. When new evidence proved that the killer was in fact the abuser, he was arrested for the new crime, one which guarantees an automatic life sentence without parole.
- In yet another episode, the team can't get enough evidence to press charges against a guy who murdered his wife before the episode is over. However, they assure him it's only the beginning of their investigation. In the meantime, the evidence acquired thus far is enough for the wife's insurance company to want their $750k back and to start repossessing the guy's stuff, starting with his brand new Ferrari.
- CSI: Miami had Horatio unable to arrest a murderer because he had diplomatic immunity. However, one of the victims was a Canadian citizen, and Canada did not recognize the guy's diplomatic status. When the guy's yacht ends up in international waters, Horatio alerts the authorities.
- Another CSI: Miami episode has Horatio figure out that the deaths of two people were caused by toxic genetically modified lettuce but cannot press charges against the company or its smug CEO. However, all the evidence he gathered will make for a massive lawsuit by the victims' families.
- In one of the few original CSI episodes not involving murder, an exhibit of valuable Japanese historical items is robbed, with the perps making off with several items and millions of dollars in cash from the vault. The team finds out that all the items were fake. The perps, including the supposed owner of the items, a wealthy Japanese businessman, turn out to be employees of the guy hosting the exhibit (the pretender was also Chinese). Grissom confronts him with the evidence, but the guy points out that there's not enough to press charges. Grissom agrees but says he will send the evidence to the guy's insurance company to expose his scam.
- This is also a fairly common tactic on Law & Order, as is threatening suspects' friends and acquaintances with accessory charges to get them to testify—or to get the criminal to confess.
Defense Lawyer: "That law is to stop pedophiles going to Taiwan to have sex with eight-year-olds!"
- For example, an episode of Law & Order: UK has a man get off for manslaughter and drug running after a witness changes his statement. After the trial, Steel has a Eureka Moment and asks his boss to "pull a Capone" on him and get him for tax evasion (which they do).
- In a classic Law and Order episode, the show's resident expert psychologist, Dr. Olivet, accused a gynecologist of raping her, but the court was forced to withdraw the charges when the defense attorney claimed that Dr. Olivet had visited the OB-GYN when one of her patients claimed he had raped her, and therefore claimed entrapment. ADA Stone then publicly announced that the city of New York would attempt to prosecute the OB-GYN again. When the doctor gloated that they couldn't touch him for Olivet's rape, Stone revealed that after his public announcement, some fifty-plus former patients stepped forward with rape charges of their own. As Stone then said when discussing a reduced sentence, Stone answered, "In a perfect world, I would leave you in a room with your former patients for an hour. I'll settle for you spending the rest of your life in jail." The same happens with the UK version of the episode, "Alesha".
- An episode in the Ben Stone era featured an African clan leader, whose drug-trafficking resulted in a few deaths and was thus charged with Felony Murder, fleeing to his home country in the middle of his trial, with the cooperation of his country's embassy. When confronted, the ambassador points out that the clan leader has been arrested in his native country, and the New York DA's office has done his country a great favor by bringing forward all that evidence, which could not be gathered in his native land due to his political power, but now that they have absolute proof of his guilt, and they can charge him with drug trafficking, which, unlike New York's Felony Murder law, allows for the death penalty.
- Jack McCoy was an expert at coming up with creative "legal theories" usually involving a defendant's actions being legally reinterpreted to make them guilty of a legal statute that wasn't obvious before or coming up with a new theory of the defendant's motive to sidestep some evidentiary hurdle that enabled him to present an open-and-shut case (or threaten to present it in order to force a plea). The most common example was a "Depraved Indifference" murder, where Jack only had to prove the defendant acted recklessly or neglected a legal burden to act in a given situation, even if they were not provably guilty of the actual murder.
- There's also a few episodes where McCoy doesn't have enough admissible evidence to convict the accused of what actually happened, so he instead re-presents the evidence based on a version of events that he suspects or even knows is false, but still holds together from a legal standpoint. People would occasionally try to call him out on this, accusing him of essentially lying in court by making bogus claims, but he'd always insist he was only presenting the jury a "theory" which they were free to either agree with or reject and that there was no reason legal loopholes shouldn't work both ways.
- One example: A woman hires a hitman to murder her wastrel husband who is driving her broke, then murders the hitman when he tries to blackmail her. The evidence showing she hired him in the first place is ruled inadmissible, so McCoy instead argues that the hitman was hired by someone else, and his murder was the result of the dead man's grief-stricken wife taking revenge on him. Even though it's the exact opposite of what happened, there's enough admissible evidence that he gets his conviction.
- A pregnant woman and her boyfriend deliberately stage an assault on her that causes a miscarriage so they can file a wrongful death suit. When their plan is uncovered, the DA brings murder charges, only for the boyfriend to smugly tell them the unborn fetus was too young to count as a "person" under the law, and therefore they can't be convicted. Stone simply argues that he doesn't believe they knew that particular technicality at the time of the crime and only found it out later when constructing their defense. Despite the fact the boyfriend had some legal training and probably was telling the truth the Jury buys the prosecution's theory out of sheer indignation at them and they're convicted.
- Another involves a pair of conspirators who shot a man just for the thrill. Their defense tactic is to have both of them point fingers at the other, only one person actually shot the victim (only one bullet was fired) and the evidence proving conspiracy was thrown out. The jury can't convict them both, and since they're unsure who did it, they would likely acquit both. However, McCoy tricks one of the lawyers into getting the trials severed. The result, both defendants will now face separate trials for the same crime, where attempting to blame their co-conspirator is a defense the jury can choose to believe or not. And given the heinousness of the crime, they probably won't. We don't see it play out though, one of the defendants confesses out of guilt before his case can go to the jury, and his testimony hangs his partner. D.A. Schiff even remarks on how McCoy got the justice system to legally accept a physical impossibility (both men fired the same bullet from the same gun).
- Another good example is when the police are in pursuit of a pair of thugs who killed an off-duty cop and kidnapped a limo driver. They catch one of the pair, but with no idea if the limo driver is dead or alive McCoy is forced to give him a very advantageous plea deal (including any "related crimes") in exchange for the whereabouts of the driver. Of course, the driver was already dead and the police later find the guy's partner also dead. McCoy can't get out of the deal, so he charges the living perp with murdering his partner on the slippery theory that the partner's murder was a completely unrelated crime. This leads to the quote at the top of the page, the plea means the original perp essentially walks for killing a cop, but ends up drawing a lengthy prison sentence anyway, for killing his accomplice.
- One from a different vector comes about when an OJ Simpson Expy, who had gotten off on the murder of his wife due to a bribed juror, is eventually nailed for the murder of the publisher of a book about the previous trial. McCoy was eventually able to get evidence that the defendant had lied about previous evidence, but also that he admitted killing his wife. The jury convicted him of the current murder, but looking at the jury kind of implied this trope for the previous case.
- One episode of Special Victims Unit features a director consciously abusing the Casting Couch trope to sleep with 16 and 17 year old girls, lying to them about their chances (in more ways than one, since he filed "scripts" that he knew would never get off the ground) and then cutting them loose, leading to at least one suicide-that-was-probably-a-murder. The detectives are stuck, since he only does this in states where he wasn't violating Age of Consent laws, meaning he hadn't done anything legally wrong. Except the detectives realize he'd once pulled this stunt with a 17-year-old in Canada, meaning he'd violated sex tourism laws with an ironclad paper trail. It even gets a dramatic Lampshade Hanging:
Benson: "You client is a pedophile, and a murderer, and if this is how we have to bring him down, it's how we're gonna do it."
- The Closer, "Good Housekeeping"; a spoiled rich youth, Austin Philips, fled south of the border to avoid prosecution for killing the daughter of a Hispanic immigrant. Knowing she couldn't get him extradited, Brenda went to Mexico to get the full story from him, and he refuses to come back to the US no matter what she tried, even letting Brenda charge his parents, which would cut him off. Brenda asks him for the story so she can close the case, and offers to drop the charges against his parents. The killer, confident he's beyond the reach of American law enforcement, tearfully confesses that he did it by accident, at which point, Brenda reveals that the murdered girl hadn't been born in the U.S., as her mother had claimed. Bad move, confessing that you've killed a Mexican citizen when you just fled to Mexico! The Mexican cops lay hands on him, and Brenda is noticeably disturbed right afterwards, breaking out the booze she bought to bribe the Federales if needed; you don't want to be a white prettyboy in a Mexican prison. More detail here.
- In an episode of Ashes to Ashes, Gene Hunt mentions how Al Capone was caught for tax evasion. Inspired by this, the team arrest a troublesome loanshark for outstanding parking tickets.
- In the Bones episode "Harbingers In The Fountain" the suspect appears to be getting away with his crime of killing a dozen people and burying them under a fountain. US Attorney Caroline Julian calls them near the end of the episode to tell them to arrest the man. She has handed the evidence to the DC DA, who is going to prosecute him for fraud. As Caroline notes, "Murder isn't the only crime. It just seems like it around you two."
- A Villain of the Week tried to use diplomatic immunity but had a change of mind upon the prospect of dealing with the Mexican Justice instead of the American one.
- The District had an example of an interesting legal loophole. An ambassador's son was smuggling drugs in diplomatic bags - specially marked and exempt from searches as part of diplomatic immunity. The cops convince a citizen known for clumsy driving to make a fender-bender on the kid's car, so the contents of the bags in the trunk can be examined. For damage. The traffic cops are admirable: fast, polite and by-the-book. The commissioner is overseeing them personally. While reading from said book. And it's all in the guise of preventing a diplomatic incident. The son has diplomatic immunity (and so can't be charged) because he is still a college student, so the Metro PD have to make their case to the Dean and get him expelled before successfully charging him.
- Something of an inversion on Psych. SBPD are going after a known crime lord for tax evasion, and Shawn's illegally obtained evidence threatens to get the whole thing thrown out of court. Shawn redeems himself by convincing several other victims to overcome their fear and testify, meaning the DA can now pursue more serious charges.
- On Blue Heelers, Tom goes after a suspected gangster (played by Gary Sweet) in this fashion, even bringing up Al Capone at one point.
- JAG: Invoked on at least 3 different occasions when an aviator did something which was clearly the wrong thing to do (e.g. accidentally killing Russian peacekeepers in Serbia, unilaterally destroying a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft captured by the Chinese, and intervening in civilian law enforcement in the U.S.), but got acquitted of all significant charges all thanks to having Harmon Rabb as his defense counsel. After the trial, however, the CO informs the aviator that he’s permanently grounded and will undergo extensive medical evaluation. In any case Uncle Sam always wins.
- In one episode of The Practice, a man kills his wife. His son, trying to protect him, claims he attacked his dad and the gun went off accidentally. When the man is acquitted, the DA has the son arrested for felony murder. The dad then confesses to the killing but is protected by double jeopardy, so the judge puts them both away for 20 years for perjury.
- Smallville: A criminal used diplomatic immunity to evade justice for kidnapping multiple American citizens. A tip to the Interpol, and he is arrested for keeping them as slaves in his own country.
- "Mr. Monk and the Wrong Man": an ex-con named Max Barton has been exonerated from a conviction for a particularly gruesome double murder, and Monk tries to help him rebuild his life. When the original witness to the crime chides him harshly for helping the very person she insists was the man she saw leaving the crime scene after she heard screaming, Monk suddenly realizes a detail about the crime scene that means Barton was guilty of the original murders all along, but due to double jeopardy, he can't be retried for them. However, Monk finds that they still can rearrest Barton for killing his partner from the original crime out of fear the guy would talk.
- "Mr. Monk Takes the Stand": a sculptor named Evan Gildea is suspected of murdering his wife Nancy and making it look like a break-in. However, when the trial comes up, Gildea's lawyer, the Saul Goodman-esque Harrison Powell, gets the case against his client thrown out by discrediting Monk and Captain Stottlemeyer despite all the evidence suggesting Gildea is guilty. However, Randy then approaches Monk asking him to help exonerate Rudy Smith, a friend of his from a police outreach program who has been accused of robbing an auto parts store and killing a clerk in the process (Rudy has confessed to robbing the clerk and taking her necklace and money from the cashier). In examining the scene, Monk notices evidence that exonerates Rudy of murder, and then he finds a discarded taillight bulb in the bushes next to the store, meaning that while they are unable to put Evan Gildea away for murdering his wife, they can put him away for killing the store clerk.note When interrogated, Gildea incriminates himself by calling Rudy "a chain-snatching, dope-smoking little thug," only to be told that while Rudy had indeed taken the clerk's necklace, this detail was never in the police report or released to the media.
- When an Engineered Public Confession doesn't work in The Thin Blue Line, Fowler gets the case thrown out by revealing that Goody was still wearing the prototype uniform that he was modeling when he found the planted evidence.
- In the Columbo episode "A Bird in the Hand," although Columbo suspects the perp of murdering her husband, he never does turn up any evidence of it. He does prove that she committed a second murder, however, and that's good enough for him. Thus, the title of the episode; as he puts it, "A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush."
- Mission: Impossible: At the end of "The Counterfeiter", the titular villain claims that even with a recording of his Engineered Public Confession, the IMF still can't do anything more than slap him with a fine. Then Phelps points out that he didn't just confess to his criminal operations, he also confessed the scope of said operations, which is large enough to sic the IRS on him for tax evasion.
- In By Any Means, the team's mission is to either find some way that the criminals can be charged with their original crime, or find some other crime they can be charged with. Cases which take the second option fall under this trope.
- Blue Bloods:
- In "The Power of the Press", Erin Reagan meets with the daughter of one of her old schoolmates. The girl, Hannah, says she was raped several weeks ago at a freshman orientation party by a star athlete, but did not report it because the dean of students said the school could act on the incident quicker than the police. As a result, the perpetrator walked free. Despite Erin's best efforts, she cannot find any evidence to bring the rapist to trial as the evidence from the original crime has been tainted. She is, however, able to find evidence to arrest the dean for deliberately ignoring evidence in a cover-up attempt.
- One episode of The Good Wife takes the unusual approach of making this the setup for the episode rather than the resolution. In The Teaser Lockhart/Gardner successfully defends a man accused of murdering his wife, but as their client was an activated Army reservist at the time of the murder, prosecutor Cary Agos hands the case materials to Army JAG, which tries him for the same murder.
- Quincy, M.E.:
- While trying a kidnapping case, Quincy is able to prove that the kidnapper hid his victim on the grounds of a national park. The state prosecutor throws the case in exchange for the kidnapper telling him where the victim is so she can be rescued, but then hands the material off to the local federal prosecutor for retrial, since the use of the national park means the perp also broke federal kidnapping statutes.
- An antagonistic example in another episode had a federal prosecutor trying a man from a mafia family for mail fraud (an insurance claim against a fire that is believed to be arson and killed a janitor) uses multiple attempts at a federal grand jury to get an indictment. Under the law, this does not count as double jeopardy, so Quincy has to prove forensically that the fire was accidental (the janitor's cleaning chemicals leaked onto a space heater). (The supposed mafia man, by the way, is entirely innocent and actively rebuffed attempts by his family to use his business for money-laundering.)
- Madam Secretary: One episode has DC Police charge a Bahraini diplomat with human trafficking, only to have the diplomat skip town on Diplomatic Impunity. However, Elizabeth convinces the Crown Prince of Bahrain (whom she went to boarding school with) to try him in Bahrain. The prince is assassinated by Bahraini hardliners after the announcement and we don't learn how the case ends.
- Daredevil (2015): Most of season 1 concerns Matt, Karen and Foggy trying to find something that proves Wilson Fisk is engaged in criminal activity, then getting someone who is willing to testify against Fisk, who has a habit of intimidating and killing off witnesses before they can testify against him.
- Matt first attempts to get testimony from Detective Blake, a corrupt cop on Fisk's payroll who got shot for being disloyal, but Fisk blackmails Blake's partner Hoffman into poisoning him in the hospital, so instead Matt ends up having Hoffman (who only did it because Fisk and Wesley threatened to have him killed otherwise) snitch on Fisk.
- In between Detective Blake's death and trying to use Hoffman, they try to take down Fisk using their tenancy dispute between Elena Cardenas and her landlord Armund Tully, a notorious slumlord who is being paid by Fisk. This fails when Fisk has Elena killed as part of a trap to lure Matt into a fight with Nobu.
- After this, Karen finds out that Fisk is hiding his mother in an upstate nursing home. When she and Ben go there, they get Marlene to reveal that Fisk killed his father with a hammer when he was just 12 years old. Unfortunately, Marlene's word is not considered reliable enough to implicate Fisk due to her age, and Fisk kills Ben before he can get some corroborating information from an old mafia contact of his, plus moves his mother to Italy, rendering this angle dead in the water.
- Season 3 ends up repeating this, after Fisk manages to beat his charges and gets out of prison.
- Ace Attorney:
- Edgeworth does this unwittingly in Ace Attorney Investigations. He gets Ernest Amano arrested for helping Lance cover up a murder, to the great delight of Agent Lang. Lang had been previously unable to prove he was tied to a smuggling ring and now had a reason to take him in.
- Phoenix and Edgeworth work together to pull this off in the last trial of Justice For All. The defendant is guilty of hiring someone to kill a rival, but they have only circumstantial evidence on him, and he could walk. So Phoenix mentions to the hired assassin (who's communicating via radio) that his client had kept blackmail material on him for insurance (proof of which was obtained by Franziska in an unexpected Big Damn Heroes moment). The defendant ends up in fear for his life and goes to jail rather than get killed in his sleep.
- In the first game's fourth case, Phoenix was unable to connect Manfred von Karma to the murder of Robert Hammond, which he planned (but that Yanni Yogi executed). Fortunately, through a massive stroke of luck, the DL-6 incident gets reopened then and there, and Phoenix is able to prove that von Karma was the sole perpetrator behind that incident. The best part about this is that von Karma intended for the DL-6 incident to be reopened as a backup plan to get Edgeworth arrested if he was exonerated of Hammond's murder.
- Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder: In one episode, the Joker and his thugs, disguised as a filming crew, were looking for a treasure. It was later revealed the only treasure was a fake. The Joker thought he'd get off because he couldn't be convicted for looking for a false treasure he never found. He was then told he could be nailed for making a film without proper authorization.
- In the Christmas episode of the animated series Ace Ventura, Ace couldn't prove Odora stole Santa Claus' reindeers (she intended to use the secret of their gravity-defying abilities on a cosmetic) but could get her arrested for illegally keeping a crocodile from an endangered breed, which she also intended to use as ingredient.
- In the first story arc of Gargoyles, Xanatos nearly gets the Gargoyles killed several times over by hiring a mercenary squad to attack them, building a force of killer winged robots that level half of their castle, and manipulating them into breaking into a rival corporation's facilities. In the end, he gets sent to prison (for only six months, at that) for "Receiving Stolen Goods" after he's found with the technology that he had the Gargoyles steal.
- In the Biker Mice from Mars episode "My Cheese is Quick", Lawrence Limburger gets away with framing Charley for his murder by fabricating the story that he wandered the city with amnesia after the accident. The Biker Mice manage to ensure his comeuppance anyway by informing the IRS that Limburger is still alive and still hasn't paid his taxes.
- Al Capone is the Trope Codifier. His days as a Chicago crime boss ended with an 11 year prison sentence for tax evasion, the longest sentence ever given for the crime.
- Somewhat hilariously, the government couldn't make the case that Capone was a crime kingpin, but they could point to his lifestyle and spending habits and say he was earning money he hadn't paid taxes on. It was pointed out at the time that the government was consciously ignoring how Capone had earned the money (which they couldn't prove) and instead focusing on the fact that he had the money and owed taxes on it.
- It's also necessary to consider that when charged with other sorts of crimes, Capone usually got a "not guilty" verdict from the jury by having his men bribe or intimidate them. To make sure he couldn't weasel his way out of the tax evasion charges, the jury pool for his case was swapped at the last minute, and the trial was started before the jurors could be coerced.
- Similarly, there are stories of gangsters who, after managing to finagle out of a trial for murder, were brought up on littering charges after it was later proved they had disposed of bodies in the river.
- O. J. Simpson
- After being declared not guilty for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman in 1995 through a combination of incompetence on the part of the authorities and his lawyers making the very public argument he was the victim of racism, O. J. was later sued by the Goldman family in a civil lawsuit, who were awarded damages in excess of 30 million. However, he's paid only a tiny fraction of this. The rights to a failed book deal concerning If I Did It passed to the Goldman family. It was a book in which Simpson presents the scenario of how the murders would have taken place if he had committed the crimes and public outcry ensured it never got publication. In 2007 the Goldman family republished the book with the new name If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer with the "if" so small as to be unnoticeable.
- In 2007 Simpson argued that his current conviction and sentence for armed robbery and kidnapping is this for his acquittal for murder. Granted, the possibility was pointed out by the judge, who warned the jury that they could get removed from the bench if they used the murder trial as a prior prejudice. Though the general public thought he was all but convicted the moment he was arrested, it is also unlikely that many have sympathy for him about this. In an interesting contrast to his last trial, many believed he was both poorly defended and the authorities actually did have an agenda this time around.
- Jack McCall was found not guilty of murdering Wild Bill Hickock, despite doing it in front of several witnesses. However, the court his trial took place in was set up by a town illegally settled on Indian territory, so it had no authority. This allowed him to be tried again in the Indian territory court, without violation of double jeopardy under the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution. He was convicted by the jury and sentenced to death. His last words before hanging were in response to a question why he shot Hickock, a famous gunfighter who had out-drawn everyone who ever faced him, in the back: "I wasn't looking to commit suicide."
- Most serial killers are not convicted of all crimes they are believed to have committed, or even of all the crimes they claim to have done. For example, it's believed that Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer, among others, may have killed more people than just the ones they were convicted of.
- Similarly, serial killers, rapists and other criminals who commit particularly heinous crimes that make the news have been known to end up being jailed for other offenses without the authorities realizing that they've caught the person who's wanted for the more infamous crimes.
- This is often done intentionally; the idea being to charge only the crimes with which they have the best evidence. It has also been known for the government to only charge the number of crimes they need to ensure a life sentence; this way if those sentences are somehow invalidated or the criminal somehow paroled, they can immediately arrest and charge the criminal with the other crimes they weren't accused of the first time, ensuring that they're kept off the street.
- A problem in the Southern US during the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan was that oftentimes a KKK member would be arrested for assaulting or murdering a black man, but would be acquitted despite overwhelming evidence. The reason being that the juries, made up of Southern US citizens, usually contained other KKK members, or people sympathetic to the KKK. So the FBI then began arresting the KKK members for conspiring to violate civil rights, which is a Federal crime, and the perpetrator would therefore be tried in a Federal court, whose jurors were not nearly so sympathetic.
- British artist and fraudster Thomas Griffiths Wainewright fled arrest for the poisoning of his sister-in-law (he was also suspected of poisoning his uncle, mother-in-law and a friend, in order to cash on their life insurances) and took refuge in France. Since this was the 1830s, there was no surviving evidence to convict him of murder when he voluntarily returned to Britain seven years later. There was, however, enough to convict him of a forgery case that had taken place in 1824, and he was deported to a harsh penal colony in Tasmania where he died before a decade passed.
- Another 19th century criminal, Edward Rulloff, could not be prosecuted for the murders of his wife and daughter according to the laws of the time because their bodies were never found. But he could be tried, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the kidnapping of his wife, because it was considered that she would never leave the family home of her own free will without taking a single one of her items with her.
- Former US Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) was sent to prison this way. He was accused of sex offenses with young men during his time as a wrestling coach, before going into politics, but the alleged offenses occurred so long ago that the Statute of Limitations had expired. However, he was convicted of a financial offense (under the PATRIOT Act that he helped pass into law) related to his attempts to bribe one of the victims into keeping silent.
- Following the acquittal of the police officers involved in the Rodney King beating by an all-white jury, the presiding judge doxed every last juror. This was significant because normally, the names of the jurors in a trial are not released for a specified period of time. This was recounted in one interview featured in Twilight: Los Angeles. All the officers involved were later charged with and convicted of federal civil rights violations as well.
- Former Chicago Police Department detective and commander Jon Burge was notorious for torturing more than 200 criminal suspects (mostly minorities) between 1972 and 1991 in order to force confessions. Burge was acquitted of police brutality charges in 1989 after his trial resulted in a hung jury and a lot of additional evidence that was stacked against him couldn't be used because of the statute of limitations. Nonetheless, Burge was arrested on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury in relation to a civil suit regarding the torture allegations against him as perjury has no such statute of limitations.
- "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli became the most hated CEO in America after he raised the price of a life-saving drug by over 5,000%. However, raising a price of a drug he owns is legal, so nothing could be done about that. Then it was discovered that he was involved in a Ponzi-like scheme, which is a federal crime. Also, it turns out that making yourself the most hated CEO in America is not conducive to getting an unbiased jury. Shkreli was ultimately sentenced to 7 years in prison, crying in court while his verdict was read.
- The State of Michigan was so horrified by Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck's murder of young widow Delphine Downing and her two-year-old daughter, Rainelle, that they declined to pursue any charges against them. Instead, they were extradited to New York, where they were wanted for another murder, because New York had the death penalty while it had been abolished for over a century in Michigan. They were found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death in the electric chair even though it was arguably an impulsive action by Beck alone, unlike the murder of the Downings, which was complex and premeditated. Had Fernandez not pled guilty and somehow beaten the charge by blaming Beck, as his defense wanted, the State of New York was ready to extradite him to Spain, where his first murder took place and he could be sentenced to death by garrote.