Denezpi v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: June 13, 2022
  • Case #: 20–7622
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: BARRETT, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS, BREYER, ALITO, and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined. GORSUCH, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SOTOMAYOR and KAGAN, JJ., joined as to Parts I and III.
  • Full Text Opinion

“Dual-sovereignty doctrine; An offense defined by one sovereign is necessarily a different offense from that of another sovereign. The two offenses can therefore be separately prosecuted without offending the Double Jeopardy Clause – even if they have identical elements and could not be separately prosecuted if enacted by a single sovereign.” Gamble v. United States, 587 U.S. ____, ____ (2019).

Petitioner pled guilty to assault and battery, 6 Ute Mountain Ute Code § 2 (1988), in a Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) court, with prosecutors appointed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Six months later, Petitioner was indicted for aggravated sexual abuse in Indian country, 18 U. S. C. §§ 2241(a)(1), (a)(2), 1153(a), in Federal District Court arising from the same act as prosecuted in the CFR court. The District Court denied Petitioner’s motion to dismiss based on the Double Jeopardy Clause and was found guilty by jury trial. The Tenth Circuit affirmed. On appeal, the Supreme Court held that the text of the Double Jeopardy Clause bars successive prosecutions “for the same offence,” not successive prosecutions by the same sovereign. Congress has regulated the “manner and extent of the tribal power of self-government,” but it is not the source of Tribal sovereignty. United States v. Wheeler, 435 U. S. 313, 328 (1978). Offenses are transgressions of law, defined by a sovereign; crimes defined by the different sovereigns must represent separate offenses. Even if Petitioner’s argument held true, that the federal government prosecuted his tribal offence and federal offence, it is not barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause. Affirmed.

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