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Justice by Other Legal Means

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Det. Lenny Briscoe: So he gets off for killing the cop, but gets nailed for killing a cop killer?
DA Jack McCoy: An irony he can reflect on for the next forty years in Attica.

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:

  • 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 Impunity 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. Alternately, his country's government might decide to revoke his diplomatic immunity or extradite him back to the protagonists' own country to be tried anyway.
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  • 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. Alternately, the criminal has committed crimes in multiple jurisdictions, and is caught in one of them. A criminal might be convicted and jailed for armed robbery in one jurisdiction without the authorities realizing they've unwittingly caught the serial killer who's been terrorizing another jurisdiction.
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  • 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, or a civilian court and a military 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.)

A Sister Trope to Tricked into Another Jurisdiction. Contrast with Framing the Guilty Party (where the suspect's guilt cannot be sufficiently proven and so the cops plant evidence to get a conviction) and Vigilante Execution (where a vigilante kills the suspect after he walks).

Warning: These examples contain unhidden spoilers.


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    Anime & 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.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • In the final issue of the C.O.P.S. Comic-Book Adaptation, the team went after Big Boss for an unpaid parking ticket, knowing that his gang would try to stop them—and racking up tons of charges they could pin on the previously untouchable Big Boss.
  • 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.
  • In Justice Society of America, a confrontation with the Crimson Avenger reveals that Wildcat framed a man for killing his fiancé, but reveals that he only did that because he couldn't prove that the man had killed his brother, sister-in-law and nephew after his brother killed the man's fiancé, although Wildcat insists that he just ensured the man's arrest and it was up to the courts if he were executed.
  • Happened a few times in Judge Dredd:
    • At the end of 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.
    • In an old Daily Star newspaper strip, Dredd 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 were going away anyway he isn't doing life for parking offenses.
    • In Block Judge, Dredd mercilessly exploits this trope to get known gang leaders out of the way until he can find more solid evidence on them. Even put together, removing mattress tags and failing to finish a prescription don't come up to much more than a few weeks, but it's all the time he needs.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Dance is Not Over, by Antony444, a Morally Bankrupt Banker involved in an unsuccessful (and needlessly bloody) coup against House Lannister is careful to use Exact Words in the letters with his coconspirators that give him Plausible Deniability. Lady Lannister admits that there's no hard evidence of his treason, but there is evidence that he's only paid a tenth of the taxes he owes her due to hiding money that was being funneled to the rebels. Tax evasion is a very serious offense in a feudal fantasy setting.
    Johanna Lannister: The crime is smaller, but I'm told the sentence at the end of the trial is oddly similar.
  • In the Persona fanfic Forewarned is Forearmed, Akira realizes Ichiro Hoshino has been beating his daughter, but the cops don't have enough evidence to arrest him for that because the daughter is too scared to talk. Akira ends up goading Hoshino into assaulting him in full view of a cop, resulting in Hoshino getting arrested for assaulting a minor, something that will likely result in him losing custody of his daughter.
  • In the Star Wars: Palpatine Is The Worst fanfic Palpatine Is Arrested for Fashion Crime the Jedi find evidence that Palpatine is a Sith and the mastermind behind the Clone Wars, but realize they can't prove anything but that he follows a different religion, so they turn to Padme for help... And she nails him with a Naboo law that boils down to forbidding him from wearing the same clothing more than once in a way not covered by the exceptions to said law, allowing his temporary removal for power while he serves the sentence. The whole thing is actually an attempt to get him to snap and nail him for the much direr charges of assault and attempted murder, something a comment from Jar Jar Binks right after he's arrested succeeds at.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Woman: Change With The Light, there's not much Mary Jane Watson can do about Roderick Kingsley sexually harassing her and trying to ruin her modeling career for rejecting his advances. Mary Jane doesn't need to, since Roderick's Woman Scorned wife Rebecca rats him out to the authorities about all his illegal activities in exchange for an immunity deal, and then sues him for control of his cosmetics company. The last anyone sees of Roderick is his getting arrested by SEC agents, and it's implied that he'll be both broke and behind bars for a very long time.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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 a 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 able 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Attempted in Freebie and the Bean. The protagonists can't nail Meyers for racketeering until their witness returns, so they arrest him for indecent exposure (he once unzipped his fly in a park to fix his truss). Not only does it not work, the D.A. chews them out for letting Meyers know the police are interested in him.
  • 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.
  • The Last Duel: The duel is fought because Jean de Carrouges can't hope for a fair trial against Le Gris; the feudal court system means their overlord Count Pierre, who's good friends with the latter, will be the judge. Carrouges has to appeal directly towards the French king for a legal duel for any chance of success.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 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."

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Callahan's Con, when discussing a particularly Obstructive Bureaucrat, Jake claims that a cop he knew in Boston was tearing out his hair looking for a legal statute to get a well-known drug dealer arrested. Said cop finally turned up a statute, noting that Native Americans could not legally go above the first floor of a public venue — and the drug dealer, who was 1/8th Mohawk, lived on a third-floor walkup.
  • In The City Without Memory, Veri-Meri, a cold-blooded traitor many times, with hundreds of mostly innocent lives to answer for, is very influential, very clever, very unscrupulous and very rich. The local high priest (extremely corrupt and ruthless himself, but not to that extent) finally finds a way to put him behind bars: for being rude in a temple.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Judge Dee:
    • In The Chinese Bell Murders, the Judge knows Lin Fan is behind a long string of crimes, including the murder of an entire family, the rape of another man's wife, bribery to get away scot-free, and salt smuggling, but can't actually prove it. While investigating, he and his men are nearly trapped under the titular bell (and discover another of Lin Fan's victims under it). The Judge manages to prove Lin Fan's guilt for the smuggling, then gets him to admit he dropped the bell on them as a "prank", then reveals the law says "an attack on an Imperial magistrate is a crime against the state", and such crimes are judged far more severely and swiftly than ordinary crimes, meaning none of Lin Fan's connections and money will not let him escape being torn apart by water buffalo.
    • In the same book, the Judge has to deal with a Buddhist monastery that's been helping women conceive by raping them while claiming it's thanks to prayers to their goddess, but can't do anything overtly as the Buddhist clique in the capital would intervene to save them. He arranges a public trial, sends the guilty monks back to the town hall and orders them left outside as the prison is too small for them. The angry mob then tears the monks apart as there were too few soldiers to guard them, exactly as the judge knew when he sent the request for reinforcements.
  • In the Louis L'Amour short story "Keep Travelin' Rider", Tack Gentry kills two henchmen who killed his uncle as part of a land grabbing scheme. Their boss promptly blames everything on them and claims that he's an innocent bystander, with the Texas Rangers who've just arrived frustratedly admitting there's no way to disprove this. Tack accepts this, but says that they can arrest the Big Bad for horse theft, as he's quickly able to prove that the horse the villain is riding is one the villain took from Tack when he thought Tack was dead. The villain angrily goes for his gun and follows his goons to the grave.
  • 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.
  • One Lincoln Rhyme novel has the perpetrators of a False Flag Operation trying to fake a terrorist attack to build public sentiment against illegal immigrants. At the conclusion of the case there is insufficient evidence to charge them with multiple kidnappings, attempted murder or terrorism. But there is enough evidence to charge them for smuggling the explosives they used for the plot into the country, which is itself a serious offense.
  • 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.
  • X-Wing Series:
    • In Solo Command, a thoroughly unpleasant Imperial scientist is captured by the New Republic. She strikes a deal with them — if she tells them what she knows, she gets amnesty, a new identity, and half a million credits, and since the New Republic is the good guys, they keep the deal. She's to be set free on Coruscant with that last after swearing that she won't just head back to the Empire and resume her work, but everyone knows that's exactly what she'll do. However, she also insists on being paid in Imperial credits — and when the customs official finds them, she's arrested, because carrying that much enemy currency is not only illegal smuggling, but sedition. She's then locked away.
    • Brought up, with a traditional Wraith Squadron twist, in 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of Ashes to Ashes (2008), 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 Spanish series Ana Tramel: El Juego, the title character takes on a big casino corporation because she knows her brother was manipulated and coerced by its main stockholder into continuing to play even though he was trying to detox himself. As the trial waits for the jury's veredict, one of the casino's stockholders tells Ana the casino's lawyers offered her brother's widow (the plaintiff Ana represents) a million euros in exchange of dropping charges against the casino, while the stockholder is hung out to dry for Ana to take down. Ana uses that to get the main stockholder to accept a deal where she drops all charges in exchange of 16 million euros - and tricks him into admitting to have sent a Dirty Cop to kill her. The deal goes through, but the man is immediately arrested for his conspiracy to commit murder, and the casino becomes the target of another lawsuit from Ana's brother's fellows in the detox group, one that looks less likely to be a success for the casino.
  • 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.
  • On Blue Heelers, Tom goes after a suspected gangster (played by Gary Sweet) in this fashion, even bringing up Al Capone at one point.
  • Bones:
    • In the 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 tries to use diplomatic immunity but has a change of mind upon the prospect of dealing with the Mexican Justice instead of the American one.
  • 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.
  • In the Chicago P.D. episode "Fagin", which introduces Hailey Upton, Team Voight catches a case where a bank gets robbed by a group teenagers. Later, they deduce the group is run by Lavar Spann, a former bank robber turned car dealer. They know that Spann kills off members of the robbery group if they pose a threat, so when one of the children writes his confession implicating Spann, Voight tells him not to testify. Team Voight ultimately nails Spann for the contribution to the delinquency of and provision of alcohol to minors.
  • The Closer, "Good Housekeeping"; a spoiled rich youth, Austin Philips, fled south of the border to avoid prosecution for killing the daughter of a Mexican 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. Brenda meets him in a Mexican police station and asks him for the story so she can close the case, and offers to drop the accessory charges against his parents. The killer tearfully confesses that he did it by "accident". Then Brenda hands the Mexican cops evidence the victim was actually born in Mexico, not America, which made her a Mexican citizen. The Mexican cops take Austin despite his pleas to go with Brenda, and Brenda is noticeably disturbed right afterwardsnote . You don't want to be a white prettyboy in a Mexican prison.
  • Columbo:
    • In the 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, however, that she committed a second murder to cover up the first, 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."
    • In another episode, the killer is a foreign diplomat, so even if Columbo proves he is the killer, he can't be prosecuted. In the embassy, Columbo manages to get him to confess to the crime — and be overheard by his boss, the leader of his country. Knowing the difference between the legal systems in his country and the US, the killer immediately waives his diplomatic immunity.
  • 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 initially 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.
    • 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.
    • CSI: Miami has Horatio unable to arrest a murderer because he has diplomatic immunity. However, one of the victims was a Canadian citizen, and Canada does 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 the CSI: NY episode, "Pot of Gold," when the main perp (who hired a man to kill a pair of journalists and an informant to cover up a gold counterfeiting scheme) denies having any connection to the murders, Mac (who has no solid evidence linking him to the killer) calls in a Treasury Agent who informs said perp of a laundry list of charges against him because of the aforementioned counterfeiting, for which they have a lot of physical evidence, including one of the fake bars being the murder weapon. Mac and Stella walk away grinning as the agent goes on.
  • 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 senility (she'll die offscreen between now and the events of season 3), 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. Karen tries to connect Fisk to the hotel he's under house arrest in. Matt first tries to expose Fisk by bringing in an inmate Fisk hired to shank himself as part of his gambit to get out of prison, but Fisk hires Dex to kill said witness. Ultimately, what takes Fisk down this time is a two step process: first, Karen provokes Fisk into sending Dex after her to avenge James Wesley, causing Dex to go after her at Matt's church, during which Father Lantom gets killed. Subsequently, Ray Nadeem (the agent who sprung Fisk) grows a conscience and decides to testify before a grand jury, with Matt and Foggy negotiating a deal for him with Blake Tower. Fisk thwarts their attempt to use the grand jury by intimidating the jurors, so Nadeem goes home and records a confession video before Dex is sent to his house by Vanessa to kill him. The video ends up being what brings down Fisk, while Matt brings down Dex by using Fisk's murder of a woman close to him to get Dex to turn against Fisk.
  • The District has an example of an interesting legal loophole. An ambassador's son is 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.
  • 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.
  • Pick any TV western (most notably Gunsmoke) and there will likely be a grass roots mob of angry citizens who won't wait for due process on behalf of some culprit who may or may not have committed a crime and will act as judge, jury and executioner right there on the spot. In Gunsmoke's case, Marshall Dillon will do some vast detective work to right the wrong or clear the presumed guilty party. However in season 10's "Old Man," an unidentified old man is framed for stabbing another man and is hanged for the crime, even after Dillon vouches for his innocence in court since there was no evidence to the contrary. It's when the actual murderer starts talking too much in the saloon that Dillon is tipped off.
  • 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.
  • Joy of Life: Forms the first main plot of the show. Due to Li Yunrui being a member of the royal family, Fan Xian can't directly get her for the murder of Teng Zijing, his friend, because to many people, the fact that Teng Zijing was a lowborn nobody means that his death is insignificant, so instead he exposes her for meddling with the Overwatch Council, thus revealing that she broke the emperor's cardinal rule and getting the emperor to exile her far from the capital.
  • 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.
    • In a classic Law & Order episode, the show's resident expert psychologist, Dr. Olivet, accuses a gynecologist of raping her, but the court is forced to withdraw the charges when the defense attorney claims that Dr. Olivet has visited the OB-GYN when one of her patients claimed he had raped her, and therefore claims entrapment. ADA Stone then publicly announces that the city of New York would attempt to prosecute the OB-GYN again. When the doctor gloats that they can't touch him for Olivet's rape, Stone reveals that after his public announcement, some fifty-plus former patients stepped forward with rape charges of their own. As Stone then says when discussing a reduced sentence, Stone answers, "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 features 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 tells them that he in no way was helping the man get away with it; he helped him go home so he can be arrested in his native country, where his crimes make him eligible for the death penalty (which New York's Felony Murder law does not). The ambassador then thanks the New York DA's office, saying they have done his country a great favor by bringing forward all that evidence; due to his political power in his native country, they never could have gotten all that evidence together to charge him, but now that they have absolute proof of his guilt, they can proceed with charges against him.
    • Jack McCoy is 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 instead argues that he believes they didn't know that particular technicality at the time of the crime and only found it out later when constructing their defense, thus they acted with the prerequisite intent that legally satisfies attempted murder. 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 not established as a "related crime" when the defendant took the original plea bargain. 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.
      • Yet another case involves two women on trial separately but simultaneously for a "Strangers on a Train"-Plot Murder case. The wealthier of the two is able to buy a top-dollar defense and is acquitted of the murder she committed, while the other, who can't afford the same quality of representation, is convicted. McCoy realizes that, seeing the disparate outcomes, the woman who was convicted would be willing to testify against the other one, especially if she got a deal on sentencing, but he can't re-try the other woman on the same crime because that would be double jeopardy... so instead he has the woman charged with murder for hire in the death of her own husband, on the premise that killing the other husband in return constituted a payment for purposes of the law. When a judge agrees, the woman realizes there's no getting around this one and accepts a deal herself.
    • Law & Order: SVU:
      • 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 accidental death-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 16-year-old in Canada; he thought he was legally in the clear because she was above the Canadian age of consent, but it turns out there's also a federal statute against leaving the country for the purpose of having sex with a minor, which is defined for purposes of that statute as anyone under 18. It even gets a dramatic Lampshade Hanging:
      Defense Lawyer: You can't be serious. That law's intention is to stop pedophiles from flying to Thailand to have sex with twelve-year-olds!
      Benson: Your client is a pedophile, and a rapist, and a murderer, and if this is the only way that we can get you, then this is the way that you're going down!
      • Inverted in another episode. A case is in jeopardy after a rape victim dies of a staph infection, so Cabot adds on some additional charges that allow her to present more evidence. The defendant is acquitted of the additional charges, but the evidence that was introduced based on those charges allows him to be convicted of the original charge of rape.
      • Yet another SVU case involves a man who runs an organization that encourages adults to have sex with children. They catch him, but they can only link him to one victim, and since he didn't personally abuse the boy (he instead encouraged the boy's stepfather to abuse him), his actions only carry a ten-year sentence, so Alex also has him charged him with possession of child pornography, and manages to get consecutive two-year sentences for each of the 1500 images on his computer. That's right, he got sentenced to three thousand years.
      • In "Taken", a con artist family runs a callous scam to set up a guy via False Rape Accusation. The young female ringleader ends up getting away from fraud charges with probation. However, because he was murdered while in prison, after accepting her deal and coldly telling the court what she did, the detectives arrest her for manslaughter, because she just proved herself criminally liable for his death.
    • In the episode "Fast Times @TheWheelHouse", a girl accuses two Tik-Tok stars of rape. They get acquitted for that, but the detectives and ADA quickly realize they bribed the jury...because they did so with their own phones, to the jurors' own phones. They promptly get arrested and convicted for that instead.
    • 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).
  • 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.
  • Mission: Impossible: At the end of "The Counterfeiter", the eponymous 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.
  • Monk:
    • "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.
  • NCIS: In Season 15's "Death From Above", a team pulls an All Your Base Are Belong to Us on NCIS headquarters to destroy evidence of their boss's drug smuggling. While they manage to pull it off, it doesn't help the guy any. The Mole survived, and now the drug lord is going down for attacking Federal law enforcement
    McGee: He'll do more time for terrorism than he ever would for drugs.
  • In The Nevers, when a pair of Purist perps, have proven to be uncooperative in the interrogation, Frank Mundi proposes that they be charged for assaulting a police officer instead; a proposition that the larger perp was all-too-happy to accept, until the interrogator introduces Mundi as "the Ape" of East-End London boxing fame. When both perps recognize him, they are quick to back off and cooperate.
  • Mentioned briefly in the series finale of NUMB3RS. While pursuing a case involving a string of vigilante murders, the FBI questions a man whose daughter's rapist was acquitted, and he tells the FBI that they're planning to sue in civil court, where the burden of proof is lower. As it's only tangential to the plot, it's not mentioned after that.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • In the Supernatural episode "ScoobyNatural", after they manage to figure out that the haunting that placed them in Scooby Doo was done by Jay for the sake of an (incredibly bloody) real estate scam-slash-"Scooby-Doo" Hoax, Sam and Dean confront him once they return to the real world. Jay of course dismisses them because there is no way that "manipulated ghost of scared little boy to hurt people" will be believed by the police. Sam and Dean explain to him, just as the cops are arriving to arrest him, that they did some computer research and got evidence that Jay had been doing some tax evasion, which they happily e-mailed to the authorities.
  • 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.
  • Played with in the final season of The Wire, where the Baltimore P.D. finally catches the "serial killer" terrorizing the homeless population; they admit they only have evidence for one murder so that's all he'll be tried for (he's also clearly mentally unfit to stand trial so there wouldn't be any point in further charges anyway), but the chief implies that the one conviction will serve as a proxy for all the murders. (In actuality, the murder is unrelated to the "serial killings" which they know was a ploy by McNulty for more funding and never even happened.)

    Video Games 
  • GRID Legends: By the end of story mode, the racing commission is clearly sick of Ravenwest's on-track antics, specifically lead driver Nathan McKane frequently crashing his opponents and causing at least one massive on-track pileup that nearly cost another racer their career. While GRID is full-contact as racing goes, this was turning into a bad look, but the team's fame and team principal Ryan McKane's wealth mean the commission couldn't level sanctions that mattered without looking like they were either on a witch hunt or favoring other teams... until evidence of Nate's chronic cheating came to light. At that point the commission was so sick of Ravenwest they completely ignored everything they had authority over and went for the alternate means: releasing evidence that the worst crash was planned, completely intentional, and deliberately targeted a specific rival; more than enough to get Ryan arrested in charges of criminal conspiracy and reckless endangerment, and leave Nate terrified once his protection and secrecy were stripped away.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.
    • Later on in Investigations Edgeworth attempts to prove that Quercus Alba is the Big Bad leading the smuggling ring. Alba confesses to killing a man that infiltrated his embassy, but this means Alba will be tried in the courts of his home country. This forces to Edgeworth quickly investigate the possibility that another murder happened on neutral soil, and if Alba killed the other victim, Alba can be tried locally. Of course, Alba still needs his diplomatic immunity revoked first.
    • In the sequel to Investigations Edgeworth can't have the Big Bad Simon Keyes arrested for his connection to the other murders due to the fact Keyes didn't directly order the murders, only engineered events to make them happen. He does get Keyes eventually when it turns out Keyes personally killed the body double who had been masquerading as Zheng Fa's president for the past twelve years.
    • In the first game's fourth case, Phoenix was unable to prove that Manfred von Karma was the mastermind of a plot to murder Robert Hammond and frame Edgeworth for it. However, everything turns out to be connected to the DL-6 incident, an unsolved case in which Edgeworth's father was murdered... by Von Karma. 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 convicted if he were exonerated of Hammond's murder.
    • In the first game's bonus fifth case, Corrupt Cop Damon Gant subverts this, forging evidence to get serial killer Joe Darke convicted for a murder he himself committed. Gant also sets up the situation to make prosecutor Lana Skye think her sister did it, effectively putting her under his thumb for years with the threat of releasing a key bit of evidence that would implicate Ema.
  • In Shining Song Starnova, Oda—an idol producer and Golden Calf Productions’ chairman of the board—is a paedophile who molests his preteen talents. Golden Calf’s acting CEO Kamijou can’t and won’t have him arrested for this, due to both a lack of evidence and the fact that publicly outing him as a paedophile would destroy the company. Instead, he gathers evidence to get Oda convicted of embezzlement and tax fraud.

    Web Comics 
  • Freefall: A man attempts to commit genocide just so that he could claim the victim's assets and he can't be charged with it because the victims, who were sapient robots, were not legally recognized as people at the time of the crime. He instead is convicted of attempting to enrich himself at his company's expense and the judge strips him of his money and forces him to get a bottom-level restaurant job. And that judge was being restrained. The other possible judge wanted to sentence him to a job working with extremely dangerous chemicals.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Christmas episode of the animated series Ace Ventura, Ace couldn't prove Odora stole Santa Claus's 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Dan Vs.: At the beginning of "Anger Management", Dan is on trial for breaking into NORAD and attempting to launch the entirety of America's nuclear arsenal at the U.S./Canadian border to get revenge on a family of squirrels. After everything is said and done, trespassing is the only offense Dan is officially charged with, when he just as easily could have been charged with treason and/or the attempted extinction of the human race. Justified as the U.S. Government wants everyone to remain ignorant of how easily Dan got a hold of the nuclear launch codes, broke into NORAD, and almost started World War III.
  • 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.
  • Scooby-Doo: Many villains are often guilty of hunting for hidden treasures in abandoned areas wearing silly ghost costumes, which, all things considered, isn't really a crime so long as they're not actively disturbing/harming the public. Occasionally, the writers will correct for this by pointing out during The Summation that they may just be notorious criminals actively wanted in other locales, and are being taken in for something completely unrelated.
  • Had Season 4 of Transformers: Animated been greenlit, Word of God says that this would have been brought up. note 

    Real Life 
  • 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.
  • 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 wrongful death 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 that he was poorly defended, and also that 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. Possibly the most extreme example is the infamous Dr Harold Shipman, who was eventually convicted of fifteen counts of murder by over-prescribing painkillers but whose total body-count is estimated to be over two hundred.
    • 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, because the juries in the states where the KKK was most active usually contained KKK sympathizers at the very least, and potentially, actual Klan members; in any case, the juries were composed entirely of white people. 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. For the same reason, the proposal to make Lynching a federal crime - often advocated by the NAACP and others - was so viciously opposed by the Segregationists in the Senate. It would not have changed much in the law as written, but it would've changed the jurisdiction that got to decide on guilt or innocence...
  • 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 his friend, in order to cash in 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 doxxed 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 AIDS-related 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 Court: The question is, have you heard anything that would affect your ability to decide this case with an open mind. Can you do that?
  • 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 pleaded 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.
  • Melvin Ignatow of Louisville, Kentucky murdered his girlfriend, Brenda Sue Schaefer. He beat the charge and was acquitted, having sold his house to pay for the defense. Apparently, he forgotten he'd hidden incriminating photos under the carpet. The new homeowners ripped up the carpet and found solid proof that he did, in fact, commit the crime. Because of double jeopardy, he couldn't be charged with the murder again, but he had lied under oath when he testified that he didn't do it. He went to prison for perjury.
  • Jack Gilbert Graham was the first American ever arrested for blowing up a commercial airliner when he was accused of blowing up United Airlines Flight 629 in 1955. However, when prosecutors looked in the federal statutes, they discovered that no one had actually bothered to make it a crime to blow up an airplane. So they turned the case over to state prosecutors, who indicted, tried and convicted him on a single charge of first-degree murder (for his mother, who was one of the passengers and unwittingly carried the bomb aboard).
  • The rare "perjury trap" usually involves a form of this, and works like this: A person committed a crime that is now outside the statute of limitations. A prosecutor calls them to the stand in some trial related to the crime. The prosecutor then specifically asks the person about the previous crime, and the person, who doesn't want to reveal their involvement, lies about it. Now the prosecutor brings a perjury charge as they can prove the person lied on the stand.
  • One notable exception to the "no double jeopardy" rule in the United States is the Uniform Code of Military Justice. A military service member who is subject to it and commits a crime "out in town" (not on military property) that is an offense in both the local and military legal systems can be tried in both, so it is possible for someone to be acquitted by a civilian court but convicted by a court martial for the same offense, or vice versa.
  • Invoked by World War II-era United Kingdom with the Treachery Act 1940. As the then-existing crime of treason had special rules that made it difficult to prove and prosecute, and because treason law was believed not to apply to saboteurs, Parliament created the new crime of treachery, very similar to treason but without the special rules and definitely applicable to saboteurs. After WWII, the special rules for treason were abolished and the Treachery Act was repealed.
    • Also invoked by the War Crimes group during the Postwar Period. As genocide fell outside of their jurisdiction they could not investigate concentration camp personnel for killing Jews. However, it just so happened that many concentration camp inmates were prisoners of war or Resistance members, meaning that personnel could be held legally responsible for war crimes, which did fall under the War Crimes group's jurisdiction. This allowed them to hang concentration camp personnel and other Holocaust perpetrators with impunity.
      • A specific example of this would be the prosecution of the staff of the Hadamar Clinic, a children's clinic where mentally and physically handicapped people were murdered. After Hadamar was occupied by the US army they attempted to prosecute the staff for murdering children but found that since the children were German citizens they had no jurisdiction. Following an investigation however they discovered that a few Polish and Russian adults had also been killed there, giving them an excuse to try the staff for war crimes.
  • Mob boss Vito Genovese was prosecuted for murdering a minor gangster named Ferdinand Boccia, but was acquitted after several prosecution witnesses were assassinated. However, he was later convicted of drug trafficking through perjury and a mob conspiracy and died in jail.
  • In 1966, a man named Mike DeBardeleben was acquitted of raping a young girl because she got in his car willingly. In 1983, he was arrested again, this time for counterfeiting. In the course of the investigation, police searched DeBardeleben's locker and found evidence that he was a Serial Killer and rapist. DeBardeleben died in prison in 2011.
  • A Cleveland man named Joseph Kerwin was acquitted in 1903 of murdering a couple of prostitutes because police were unable to obtain a warrant. He was later arrested in Michigan for choking and robbing a woman. When Michigan police heard about the case, they used the fact that the robbery occurred on a ferry as an excuse to charge Kerwin with piracy, which carried a minimum sentence of life in prison, rather than robbery.
  • Louis Riel, the leader of a Canadian Indigenous settlement, took 48 members of the Red River Settlement hostage in 1870 for undermining his authority. When one of the hostages, Thomas Scott, insulted his guards, Riel charged him with insubordination and had him shot. He managed to escape arrest for this crime but was later apprehended while trying to overthrow the Canadian government, tried for treason, convicted and hanged. As one of the jurors at his trial remarked, "We tried Riel for treason and he was hanged for the murder of Scott".
  • Alfred Leonard Cline was accused of being The Bluebeard but couldn't be convicted because all nine of his wives had conveniently been cremated after death, so whether or not they were killed unlawfully could not be established. However, he was convicted of forging his victim's wills so he could inherit their money and sentenced to 126 years in prison.
  • Dentist Gilberto Nunez was acquitted of murdering his neighbour by drugging him with sedatives, only to be convicted of twelve felonies relating to several crimes he committed in the course of planning the crime.
  • While some countries claim "universal jurisdiction" for certain crimes (a citizen can be held responsible for a crime committed abroad - in some cases even if the act is legal in the jurisdiction it occurred in) applying to their own citizens, only a handful of countries (and then only for particularly heinous crimes) claim universal jurisdiction for crimes of non-citizens abroad (The German Volkerstrafgesetzbuch is a case in point which has been used a couple of times in the 21st century to prosecute war criminals who had since immigrated to Germany for crimes committed in their home countries). However, what is quite common is for states to assert jurisdiction for crimes committed against its own citizens - even if abroad and even if legal under local law. For example, Spain tried to convict Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (who had already been convicted in the UK under universal jurisdiction but was subsequently released) on the grounds that his death squads and torture units had also attacked Spanish citizens. From the legal standpoint of the Spanish courts, what Pinochet did or ordered done to Chileans was immaterial - but woe be him if he touched a single Spaniard. Interestingly, most subsequent dictators have not fully wised up to this.
  • In 1984, Daniel Kayton Boro was arrested in California after manipulating a hotel clerk named Mariana De Bella into having sex with him by pretending to be a doctor and telling her that she suffered from a life-threatening infection that could only be cured if he administered a vaccine by having sex with her. Unfortunately California had no laws against rape by deception in 1984 so Boro was acquitted of rape. However, he had also got De Bella to give him $1000 for administering the vaccine, meaning he could be convicted of theft.
  • Nathaniel Bar-Jonah was suspected of abducting, raping and murdering Zachary Ramsey but Ramsey's body was never found and his mother refused to believe he was dead and threatened to testify in Bar-Jonah's defence so the case never made it to trial. While the police could do nothing about Ramsey's disappearance, they had found the DNA of several other children while searching Bar-Jonah's house and followed up on this, discovering that two of the samples came from a couple of children who used to live near him and who were willing to testify Bar-Jonah had sexually abused them. The end result was that Bar-Jonah received a 130-year sentence.
  • Canadian gangster Peter Gill got acquitted of two counts of murder by having sex with juror Gillian Guess. When the police found out about their relationship, Gill was convicted of obstruction of justice, as was Guess after it was found that there was no specific law against her actions.