Legislative Discretion as to Multiple Sentences.
It fre-quently happens that one activity of a criminal nature will violate one or more laws or that one or more violations may be charged.145 Although the question is not totally free of doubt, it appears that the Double Jeopardy Clause does not limit the legislative power to split a single transaction into separate crimes so as to give the prosecution a choice of charges that may be tried in one proceeding, thereby making multiple punishments possible for essentially one transaction.146 “Where . . . a legislature specifically authorizes cumulative punishment under two statutes, regardless of whether those two statutes proscribe the ‘same’ conduct under Blockburger, a court’s task of statutory construction is at an end and . . . the trial court or jury may impose cumulative punishment under such statutes in a single trial.”147
The clause does, however, create a rule of construction—a presumption against the judiciary imposing multiple punishments for the same transaction unless Congress has “spoken in language that is clear and definite”148 to pronounce its intent that multiple punishments indeed be imposed. The commonly used test in determining whether Congress would have wanted to punish as separate offenses conduct occurring in the same transaction, absent otherwise clearly expressed intent, is the “same evidence” rule. The rule, announced in Blockburger v. United States,149 “is that where the same act or transaction constitutes a violation of two distinct statutory provisions, the test to be applied to determine whether there are two offenses or only one, is whether each provision requires proof of a fact which the other does not.” Thus, in Gore v. United States,150 the Court held that defendant’s one act of selling narcotics had violated three distinct criminal statutes, each of which required proof of a fact not required by the others; prosecuting him on all three counts in the same proceeding was therefore permissible.151 So too, the same evidence rule does not upset the “established doctrine” that, for double jeopardy purposes, “a conspiracy to commit a crime is a separate offense from the crime itself,”152 or the related principle that Congress may prescribe that predicate offenses and “continuing criminal enterprise” are separate offenses.153 On the other hand, in Whalen v. United States,154 the Court determined that a defendant could not be separately punished for rape and for killing the same victim in the perpetration of the rape, because it is not the case that each statute requires proof of a fact that the other does not, and no indication existed in the statutes and the legislative history that Congress wanted the separate offenses punished.155 In this as in other areas, a guilty plea ordinarily precludes collateral attack.156
- There are essentially two kinds of situations here. There are “double-description” cases in which criminal law contains more than one prohibition for conduct arising out of a single transaction. E.g., Gore v. United States, 357 U.S. 386, 392–93 (1958) (one sale of narcotics resulted in three separate counts: (1) sale of drugs not in pursuance of a written order, (2) sale of drugs not in the original stamped package, and (3) sale of drugs with knowledge that they had been unlawfully imported). And there are “unit-of-prosecution” cases in which the same conduct may violate the same statutory prohibition more than once. E.g., Bell v. United States, 349 U.S. 81 (1955) (defendant who transported two women across state lines for an immoral purpose in one trip in same car indicted on two counts of violating Mann Act). See Westen & Drubel, Toward a General Theory of Double Jeopardy, 1978 SUP. CT. REV. 81, 111–22.
- Albernaz v. United States, 450 U.S. 333, 343–44 (1981) (defendants convicted on separate counts of conspiracy to import marijuana and conspiracy to distribute marijuana, both charges relating to the same marijuana.) The concurrence objected that the clause does preclude multiple punishments for separate statutory offenses unless each requires proof of a fact that the others do not. Id. at 344. Because the case involved separate offenses that met this test, Albernaz strictly speaking is not a square holding and previous dicta is otherwise, but Albernaz’s dicta is well-considered in view of the positions of at least four of its Justices who have objected to the dicta in other cases suggesting a constitutional restraint by the clause. Whalen v. United States, 445 U.S. 684, 695, 696, 699 (1980) (Justices White, Blackmun, Rehnquist, and Chief Justice Burger).
- Missouri v. Hunter, 459 U.S. 359, 368–69 (1983) (separate offenses of “first degree robbery,” defined to include robbery under threat of violence, and “armed criminal action”). Only Justices Marshall and Stevens dissented, arguing that the legislature should not be totally free to prescribe multiple punishment for the same conduct, and that the same rules should govern multiple prosecutions and multiple punishments.
- United States v. Universal C.I.T. Corp., 344 U.S. 218, 221–22 (1952).
- 284 U.S. 299, 304 (1932). This case itself was not a double jeopardy case, but it derived the rule from Gavieres v. United States, 220 U.S. 338, 342 (1911), which was a double jeopardy case. See also Carter v. McClaughry, 183 U.S. 365 (1902); Morgan v. Devine, 237 U.S. 632 (1915); Albrecht v. United States, 273 U.S. 1 (1927); Pinkerton v. United States, 328 U.S. 640 (1946); American Tobacco Co. v. United States, 328 U.S. 781 (1946); United States v. Michener, 331 U.S. 789 (1947); Pereira v. United States, 347 U.S. 1 (1954); Callanan v. United States, 364 U.S. 587 (1961).
- 357 U.S. 386 (1958).
- See also Albernaz v. United States, 450 U.S. 333 (1981); Iannelli v. United States, 420 U.S. 770 (1975) (defendant convicted on two counts, one of the substantive offense, one of conspiracy to commit the substantive offense; defense raised variation of Blockburger test, Wharton’s Rule requiring that one may not be punished for conspiracy to commit a crime when the nature of the crime necessitates participation of two or more persons for its commission; Court recognized Wharton’s Rule as a double-jeopardy inspired presumption of legislative intent but held that congressional intent in this case was “clear and unmistakable” that both offenses be punished separately).
- United States v. Felix, 503 U.S. 378, 391 (1992). But cf. Rutledge v. United States, 517 U.S. 292 (1996) (21 U.S.C. § 846, prohibiting conspiracy to commit drug offenses, does not require proof of any fact that is not also a part of the continuing criminal enterprise offense under 21 U.S.C. § 848, so there are not two separate offenses).
- Garrett v. United States, 471 U.S. 773 (1985) (“continuing criminal enterprise” is a separate offense under the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970).
- 445 U.S. 684 (1980).
- The Court reasoned that a conviction for killing in the course of rape could not be had without providing all of the elements of the offense of rape. See also Jeffers v. United States, 432 U.S. 137 (1977) (no indication in legislative history Congress intended defendant to be prosecuted both for conspiring to distribute drugs and for distributing drugs in concert with five or more persons); Simpson v. United States, 435 U.S. 6 (1978) (defendant improperly prosecuted both for committing bank robbery with a firearm and for using a firearm to commit a felony); Bell v. United States, 349 U.S. 81 (1955) (simultaneous transportation of two women across state lines for immoral purposes one violation of Mann Act rather than two).
- United States v. Broce, 488 U.S. 563 (1989) (defendant who pled guilty to two separate conspiracy counts is barred from collateral attack alleging that in fact there was only one conspiracy and that double jeopardy applied).