- Court: United States Supreme Court
- Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
- Date Filed: June 17, 2019
- Case #: 17-646
- Judge(s)/Court Below: ALITO, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, KAGAN, and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a concurring opinion. GINSBURG, J., and GORSUCH, J., filed dissenting opinions.
- Full Text Opinion
Petitioner pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon under Alabama state law. Federal prosecutors followed with an indictment for the same instance of firearm possession by a felon under federal law. Petitioner moved to dismiss the federal charge, arguing the federal charge was for the same offense as the state charge and subject to double jeopardy rights under the Fifth Amendment. The district court denied the motion, reasoning the U.S. Supreme Court held that two offenses “are not the ‘same offence’” for purposes of double jeopardy “if prosecuted by different sovereigns.” Heath v. Alabama, 474 U.S. 82, 92 (1985). Petitioner pleaded guilty to the federal charge and appealed the denial of the motion to dismiss on double jeopardy grounds. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding the Court’s extensive precedent regarding the dual-sovereignty doctrine. Petitioner sought certiorari to overturn the dual-sovereignty doctrine, arguing it is contrary to the intent of the guarantees of double jeopardy. The Court affirmed, finding that the dual-sovereignty doctrine follows the text of the Fifth Amendment and is not an ‘exception’ to the double jeopardy clause. The Court reasoned that 170 year precedent supporting the dual-sovereignty doctrine, applying a clear interpretation that a “crime under one sovereign’s laws is not “the same offence” as a crime under the laws of another sovereign.” Therefore, both the State and Federal governments may prosecute the same person for the same criminal conduct. AFFIRMED.