U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Separate Sovereigns Doctrine to the Double Jeopardy Clause

June 18, 2019

Under the double jeopardy provision of the United States Constitution, no personal shall be “twice put in jeopardy for the same offense.” This U.S. Supreme Court today upheld the exception under the “separate sovereigns” doctrine. In a 7-2 split, the justices rejected a challenge to the doctrine by an Alabama man who was prosecuted in state and federal court for possession of a firearm by a felon.

Eliminating the separate sovereigns provision would mean that President Trumps pardon power might block state charges. For instance, had the justices eliminated the separate sovereigns rule, then President Trump could pardon Paul Manafort and Manafort would avoid any charges pending against him in New York.

The case before the Supreme Court involved Terance Gamble, who said his constitutional rights were violated when he was charged under both Alabama law and federal law for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. He entered a guilty plea in a state court, then moved to dismiss the federal indictment but lost.

Justice Alito wrote for the majority stating that the separate sovereign rule is “not an exception at all” but instead “follows from the text that defines that right in the first place.”

In the last 30 years, federal prosecutors have invoked the separate-sovereigns rule to press civil rights charges against those who have already faced criminal charges. For example, in 1993, a federal jury found two LAPD police officers guilty of beating Rodney King even though the officers were acquitted by a jury in state court.

If you have been charged with a federal offense, then contact an experienced Newport Beach federal criminal lawyer at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers.

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