Court ruled in error

Published 12:06 pm Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Los Angeles Times on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to try defendants on the state and federal level for the same offense:

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that if you are convicted in a state court of a criminal offense, the federal government can put you on trial again for essentially the same crime, and if you’re convicted, your new sentence can be added to your old one. In our view, that’s a violation of the Constitution’s prohibition against double jeopardy.

(…) The justices rejected an argument Monday by a 7-2 vote. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. cited the court’s longstanding view that the federal government and the states are separate “sovereigns” and that “a crime under one sovereign’s laws is not ‘the same offense’ as a crime under the laws of another sovereign.” Alito also emphasized that a ruling in Gamble’s favor would depart from “170 years of precedent.”

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(…) Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg questioned the notion that the federal government and the states are separate “sovereigns,” writing that it “overlooks a basic tenet of our federal system, namely that under the Constitution ultimate sovereignty resides in the governed.” But even if the separate sovereigns theory once made sense, Ginsburg suggested that things changed with Supreme Court’s decision in 1969 to apply the double jeopardy clause to the states as well as the federal government.

She’s correct. If federal and state prosecutions are governed by the same constitutional rules, the double jeopardy clause prohibits successive prosecutions regardless of which level of government files the indictment.


— The Los Angeles Times