Does Double Jeopardy Apply In Ray Rice Suspension?

The former Baltimore Ravens RB is expected to appeal his indefinite suspension from the NFL and claim double jeopardy.

Does Double Jeopardy Apply In Ray Rice Suspension?
Getty Images / Rob Carr

The NFL originally punished former Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice with a two-game suspension for his part in a supposed domestic abuse incident. But then TMZ posted this video of the incident, and the NFL revised that to an "indefinite" one instead. 

Now Rice and the NFL Players Association are expected to appeal that indefinite suspension. 

CNN: "They say his punishment amounts to double jeopardy. In other words, the NFL can't hand down one punishment and then hand down a harsher punishment." 

But many are wondering — does double jeopardy even apply here? University of Miami criminal law professor and former public defender Tamara Rice Lave told The Wall Street Journal not so much. 

"For double jeopardy to apply in a non-trial setting, the defendant must have actually pleaded guilty to the crime in question, in this case aggravated assault in the third degree. In this case, he merely entered a not guilty plea."

But South Florida lawyer and Forbes contributor Darren Heitner says it's not that simple, writing: "Arbitrators in labor disputes generally rule that an employer cannot increase an already imposed punishment for an act committed. However, it is not clear that a general rule regarding employers would be extended to Commissioner Goodell." 

If Rice does win his appeal, which could take weeks or months, he will also need to be a signed by a new team. The Baltimore Ravens released Rice shortly after the NFL suspended him indefinitely last week. 

But The Baltimore Sun points out players have returned to the NFL before after massive public and legal fallout. It cites both QB Michael Vick, who was sentenced in 2007 to 23 months in jail for his part in a dogfighting scheme, and WR Donte Stallworth, who pleaded guilty in 2009 to DUI manslaughter and spent 24 days in jail. (Video via ESPN, Miami Herald

Both Vick and Stallworth returned to the NFL after their jail sentences. Vick is currently the backup QB for the New York Jets. Stallworth has not played in an NFL regular season game since 2012 but has not officially retired. 

Interestingly, Commissioner Goodell has the final say on all appeals made to the league, although it's possible and somewhat expected he would hand off the case off to a hearing officer. Rice is currently a free agent and is currently not facing any legal charges.

This video includes images from Getty Images.