Scotland has something similar to American double jeopardy when a verdict of "not guilty" rather than "not proven" is issued by the jury. Indeed, this protection is even greater there because generally speaking there is no separate set of U.K. criminal laws that can be enforced in Scotland if someone is acquitted under Scottish law.
All other systems based upon the civil law systems of Europe or the British Commonwealth system do not appear to have this feature. China also allows appeals of acquittals.
I was unable to discern the state of the law in various tribal courts around the globe, and in Islamic law courts, none of which are derived from either the British system or the European civil law system or China's legal system.
What distinguishes double jeopardy applied in the United States from the similar doctrine non bis in idem applied much more widely (disallowing criminal retrials by the same sovereign after a final judgment in a criminal case), is that the American practice prohibits a prosecution appeal from upsetting an acquittal.
This is partially mitigated by making interlocutory appeals prior to a jury trial or bench trial when jeopardy attaches, routine in American criminal procedure, usually on issues such as jurisdiction and the suppression of evidence under the 4th Amendment exclusionary rule and Miranda v. Arizona.
This also isn't quite technically true. A handful of U.S. states, including Colorado, actually allow prosecution appeals following an acquittal for purposes of establishing legal precedents, but the appeal does not change the permanent termination of the criminal charges. See People v. MacLeod (Colo. 2008); Krutka v. Spinuzzi (Colo. 1963), Colo. Rev. Statutes § 16-12-102(1).
There is also arguably a narrow "law only" exception to the double jeopardy rule in the United States, and an exception for when a party is never actual placed "in jeopardy", for example, because he has bribed a judge in a bench trial.
It also bears noting that while the U.S. does not allow acquittal appeals, acquittals in another state or by the federal government, are not a bar to a criminal trial of the same conduct by a state court, and a state acquittal is not a bar to a federal prosecution. So, the U.S. achieves through federalism essentially what would be barred under the double jeopardy clause if it were a unitary state.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which is influential in many countries, provides a criminal defendant, but not the state, with a right to a direct appeal of a conviction, something that the United States Constitution does not (although some state constitutions do). See, e.g., McKane v. Durston, 153 U.S. 684, 687 (1894), and while the U.S. adopted the ICCPR, the Senate provided when it did so that it was not self-executing, so this treaty right can not be enforced by criminal defendants.
This history of the unusual stance of U.S. law on double jeopardy is also set forth below.
A Short History of Double Jeopardy Law
The Deep Roots Of Double Jeopardy In General
Historically, it was part of both Roman law and English law, with English law being the source of the American concept in the first place.
As of 1913, the Oklahoma Supreme Court, stated, without supporting authority, that the concept was nearly universal globally. Stout v. State, 36 Okl. 744, 756 (1913). As this source notes:
The concept of double jeopardy is one of the oldest in Western
civilization. In 355 B.C. Athenian statesmen Demosthenes said that the
"law forbids the same man to be tried twice on the same issue." The
Romans codified this principle in the Digest of Justinian in 533 A. D.
The principle also survived the Dark Ages (400-1066 A.D.) through the
canon law and the teachings of early Christian writers,
notwithstanding the deterioration of other Greco-Roman legal
In England the protection against double jeopardy was considered a
universal maxim of the common law and was embraced by eminent jurists
Henry de Bracton (1250), Sir Edward Coke (1628), Sir Matthew Hale
(1736), and Sir William Blackstone (1769). However, the English double
jeopardy doctrine was extremely narrow. It afforded protection only to
defendants accused of capital felonies and applied only after
conviction or acquittal. It did not apply to cases dismissed prior to
final judgment and was not immune to flagrant abuse by the British
A law review article from 2016 notes that:
The general principle that one cannot be twice prosecuted for the same
acts or offense appears in the laws of most countries. It is known in
the United States as the protection against “double jeopardy;” in
Europe and elsewhere the principle is known under the Latin phrase ne
bis in idem. However, a vexing problem occurs when a person or a
company may be subject to criminal prosecutions for the same facts in
two different countries. The domestic law of the second country may
provide little or no protection, and international agreements vary in
their applicability and scope.
U.S. and English Legal History Pertinent To Double Jeopardy
One factor in the usual position taken in the United States is that direct appeals of criminal cases did not exist in federal criminal cases in the United States until about 1890 or in England prior to American Independence. Prior to that point, neither convictions nor acquittals were subject to direct appeal, although very limited appeals through writs of habeas corpus (largely going to issues like the jurisdiction of the court trying the case) were allowed. State incorporation of federal double jeopardy law in criminal cases happened after the tradition of interpreting double jeopardy to prohibit appeals of acquittals was well established under federal law.
In early common law jurisprudence appeals of criminal acquittals were handled by the English Star Chamber, whose practices the U.S. Bill of Rights was to a large extent directed as abolishing:
The earliest methods of review directly targeted the jury itself.
Indeed, Langbein has argued that a desire to control juries drove much
of the common law’s development. During the medieval period, jury
verdicts could be quashed through a process known as attaint. A second
jury, with twice as many members, was empanelled to review the
verdict. If reversed, members of the original jury received “savage
penalties.” This process was, however, not available to criminal
defendants and was very rarely used in criminal cases.
During the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the practice of
fining jurors became common. The Star Chamber, which was responsible
for protecting against abuse of the legal system, regularly fined
jurors for bringing in acquittals against the weight of the evidence.
The presumption seems to have been that such findings could only be
the result of bribery or corruption. In Bushell’s Case, following the
abolition of the Star Chamber, the courts ended this practice.
Criminal Appeals Of Acquittals In Early Modern Continental Europe
Criminal appeals developed earlier in France out of a desire for centralization of power by monarchs as earlier feudal practices waned and based upon procedural practices of canon law (i.e. Roman Catholic religious courts which were greatly influential on European courts) (same source):
By 1670, and probably considerably earlier, a generous system of
criminal appeals was established in France. In many cases, appeals
were automatic. Lodging an appeal suspended the execution of sentence,
and the prosecution had the right to appeal against either an
acquittal or the sentence imposed.
Parallel developments took place in Germany and Italy.
In part this was facilitated by the fact that European civil law system courts make findings of fact and conclusions of law in every case that can be meaningfully reviewed without a transcript and allow de novo retrial of factual issues. In contrast, verbatim records were not kept in early American criminal cases and the jury did not make written findings of fact or conclusions of law that could easily be reviewed.
Appeals Of Acquittals Of The Modern British Commonwealth
English law has since then allowed appeals of acquittals, although prosecution appeals are more limited in cases tried in indictments (generally more serious charges) and it appears that all other countries in the Commonwealth followed suit.
Australia allows appeals from acquittals in some kinds of cases but not others, while Canada and New Zealand, also have some kinds of cases, at least, where appeals from acquittals are not permitted, according to this Australian commission report. Canadian sources state that acquittals can be appealed in Canada, but only on much more limited grounds (it cannot argue that the verdict was not supported by the evidence) than appeals by defendants stating:
The Crown may appeal an acquittal, but the Crown's right to appeal is
not as broad as the accused's right to appeal and is very limited. The
Crown must show there was a significant error of law. An example of an
error of law may occur when important evidence is wrongly excluded at
the trial. The Crown may also appeal the sentence but such appeals are
also very limited because appeal courts will not usually interfere
with the trial judge's decision on sentencing.
Another source states that appeals of acquittals are permitted in New Zealand on a similar basis to those in Canada.
Scotland has two kinds of non-conviction verdicts: "not guilty" which has double jeopardy effect similar to the U.S. and "not proven" which does not.
Modern Civil Law Country Practice
In Europe, a criminal acquittal of Amanda Knox was appealed in 2011 in Italy and an appeal of an acquittal of bribery charges in Sweden was appealed in 2017, illustrate the modern rule in civil law countries.
This also means that the US is effectively the only country where
"jury nullification" is truly possible.
This isn't really true in British Commonwealth countries, although it is in countries based upon European continental civil law. In British Commonwealth countries the grounds upon which appeals of acquittals are permitted are narrow enough to allow for some jury nullification verdicts. Usually, British Commonwealth appeals of acquittals can't be based on the argument that the evidence of guilt presented was overwhelming, although England allows for retrials of acquitted defendants based upon substantial new evidence.
In contrast, the trials de novo held in European continent civil law based systems do not allow for the equivalent of jury nullification.
The vast majority of legal systems in the world are based upon either the British Commonwealth system, or upon the civil law system of Europe, with borrowings from distinctly American legal processes being mostly piecemeal.
For example, acquittals can be appealed in Japan (see footnote 48) which primarily used the legal codes of Germany as its model.
There are a few legal systems that don't follow these models - most notably Islamic law courts, the Chinese legal system, and selected tribal courts of indigenous peoples in the Americas, Africa and Southeast Asia.
China does not have an equivalent to U.S. double jeopardy. I have not located a resource answering this question in the context of Islamic law systems and tribal courts.