Currier v. Virginia

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: October 16, 2017
  • Case #: 16-1348
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 798 S.E.2d 164 (Va. 2016)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether an acquittal under the Double Jeopardy Clause is available to a defendant who consents to severance of charges into successive trials.

Petitioner was charged with breaking and entering, grand larceny, and possessing a firearm after being convicted of a felony. Given the prejudicial nature of the evidence that defendant had committed prior crimes, the parties agreed to sever the felon-in-possession charge from the others. The State tried the breaking and entering and grand larceny charges first, and Petitioner was acquitted by the jury on both. Petitioner moved to dismiss the remaining charge. Petitioner argued that issue preclusion under the Double Jeopardy Clause estopped the State from trying him on the felon-in-possession charge because one jury had already found that he was not involved in the break-in and theft, and therefore he could not have possessed the firearms. The trial court denied the motion because the charges were separated to prevent prejudice to Petitioner. At trial, Petitioner was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. On appeal, the Virginia Court of Appeals affirmed, reasoning that the clause is concerned with “unfair and abusive reprosecutions,” a concern that is absent in this case because the charge was “severed with the defendant’s consent and for his benefit.” The Virginia Supreme Court issued an order adopting the reasoning of the appellate court. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve a circuit split. Petitioner asks the Court to adopt the position that defendants retain issue preclusion arguments after consenting to severance of charges.

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