Sentence Increases.

The Double Jeopardy Clause protects against imposition of multiple punishment for the same offense.136 The application of the principle leads, however, to a number of complexities. In a simple case, it was held that where a court inadvertently imposed both a fine and imprisonment for a crime for which the law authorized one or the other but not both, it could not, after the fine had been paid and the defendant had entered his short term of confinement, recall the defendant and change its judgment by sentencing him to imprisonment only.137 But the Court has held that the imposition of a sentence does not from the moment of imposition have the finality that a judgment of acquittal has. Thus, it has long been recognized that in the same term of court and before the defendant has begun serving the sentence the court may recall him and increase his sentence.138 Moreover, a defendant who is retried after he is successful in overturning his first conviction is not protected by the Double Jeopardy Clause against receiving a greater sentence upon his second conviction.139 An exception exists with respect to capital punishment, the Court having held that government may not again seek the death penalty on retrial when on the first trial the jury had declined to impose a death sentence.140

Applying and modifying these principles, the Court narrowly approved the constitutionality of a statutory provision for sentencing of “dangerous special offenders,” which authorized prosecution appeals of sentences and permitted the appellate court to affirm, reduce, or increase the sentence.141 The Court held that the provision did not offend the Double Jeopardy Clause. Sentences had never carried the finality that attached to acquittal, and its precedents indicated to the Court that imposition of a sentence less than the maximum was in no sense an “acquittal” of the higher sentence. Appeal resulted in no further trial or other proceedings to which a defendant might be subjected, only the imposition of a new sentence. An increase in a sentence would not constitute multiple punishment, the Court continued, inasmuch as it would be within the allowable sentence and the defendant could have no legitimate expectation of finality in the sentence as first given because the statutory scheme alerted him to the possibility of increase. Similarly upheld as within the allowable range of punishment contemplated by the legislature was a remedy for invalid multiple punishments under consecutive sentences: a shorter felony conviction was vacated, and time served was credited to the life sentence imposed for felony-murder. Even though the first sentence had been commuted and hence fully satisfied at the time the trial court revised the second sentence, the resulting punishment was “no greater than the legislature intended,” hence there was no double jeopardy violation.142

The Court is also quite deferential to legislative classification of recidivism sentencing enhancement factors as relating only to sentencing and as not constituting elements of an “offense” that must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Ordinarily, therefore, sentence enhancements cannot be construed as additional punishment for the previous offense, and the Double Jeopardy Clause is not implicated. “Sentencing enhancements do not punish a defendant for crimes for which he was not convicted, but rather increase his sentence because of the manner in which he committed his crime of conviction.”143


Ex parte Lange, 85 U.S. (18 Wall.) 163, 173 (1874); North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U.S. 711, 717 (1969). back
Ex parte Lange, 85 U.S. (18 Wall.) 163 (1874). back
Bozza v. United States, 330 U.S. 160 (1947). See also Pollard v. United States, 352 U.S. 354, 359–60 (1957) (imposition of prison sentence two years after court imposed an invalid sentence of probation approved). Dicta in some cases had cast doubt on the constitutionality of the practice. United States v. Benz, 282 U.S. 304, 307 (1931). However, United States v. DiFrancesco, 449 U.S. 117, 133–36, 138–39 (1980), upholding a statutory provision allowing the United States to appeal a sentence imposed on a “dangerous special offender,” removes any doubt on that score. The Court there reserved decision on whether the government may appeal a sentence that the defendant has already begun to serve. back
North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U.S. 711, 719–21 (1969). See also Chaffin v. Stynchcombe, 412 U.S. 17, 23–24 (1973). The principle of implicit acquittal of an offense drawn from Green v. United States, 355 U.S. 184 (1957), does not similarly apply to create an implicit acquittal of a higher sentence. Pearce does hold that a defendant must be credited with the time served against his new sentence. 395 U.S. at 717–19. back
Bullington v. Missouri, 451 U.S. 430 (1981). Four Justices dissented. Id. at 447 (Justices Powell, White, Rehnquist, and Chief Justice Burger). The Court disapproved Stroud v. United States, 251 U.S. 15 (1919), although formally distinguishing it. Bullington was followed in Arizona v. Rumsey, 467 U.S. 203 (1984), also involving a separate sentencing proceeding in which a life imprisonment sentence amounted to an acquittal on imposition of the death penalty. Rumsey was decided by 7–2 vote, with only Justices White and Rehnquist dissenting. In Monge v. California, 524 U.S. 721 (1998), the Court refused to extend the “narrow” Bullington exception outside the area of capital punishment. But see Sattazahn v. Pennsylvania, 537 U.S. 101 (2003) (state may seek the death penalty in a retrial when defendant appealed following discharge of the sentencing jury under a statute authorizing discharge based on the court’s “opinion that further deliberation would not result in a unanimous agreement as to the sentence, in which case the court shall sentence the defendant to life imprisonment”). back
United States v. DiFrancesco, 449 U.S. 117 (1980). Four Justices dissented. Id. at 143, 152 (Justices Brennan, White, Marshall, and Stevens). back
Jones v. Thomas, 491 U.S. 376, 381–82 (1989). back
United States v. Watts, 519 U.S. 148, 154 (1997) (relying on Witte v. United States, 515 U.S. 389 (1995), and holding that a sentencing court may consider earlier conduct of which the defendant was acquitted, so long as that conduct is proved by a preponderance of the evidence). See also Almendarez-Torres v. United States, 523 U.S. 224 (1998) (Congress’s decision to treat recidivism as a sentencing factor does not violate due process); Monge v. California, 524 U.S. 721 (1998) (retrial is permissible following appellate holding of failure of proof relating to sentence enhancement). Justice Scalia, whose dissent in Almendarez-Torres argued that there was constitutional doubt over whether recidivism factors that increase a maximum sentence must be treated as a separate offense for double jeopardy purposes (523 U.S. at 248), answered that question affirmatively in his dissent in Monge. 524 U.S. 740–41. back