SCOTUS Again Upholds Double Prosecution and Punishment for the Same Crime


Posted: Jun 22, 2022 12:01 AM

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The federal government prosecuted Merle Denezpi twice for the same crime. It also punished him twice: the first time with 140 days in a federal detention center, the second time with a prison sentence more than 70 times as long.

Although that may seem like an obvious violation of the Fifth Amendment’s ban on double jeopardy, the Supreme Court last week ruled that it wasn’t. As the six justices in the majority saw it, that puzzling conclusion was the logical result of the Court’s counterintuitive precedents on this subject.

The Fifth Amendment says no person shall “be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” But under the Court’s longstanding “dual sovereignty” doctrine, an offense is not “the same” when it is criminalized by two different governments.

That doctrine allows serial state and federal prosecutions for the same crime, opening the door to double punishment or a second trial after an acquittal. Although neither seems just, the

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