The United States Supreme Court held on Monday that criminal defendants may be prosecuted for the same offenses in both federal and state court, upholding a long-standing exception to the Constitution’s Double Jeopardy Clause.
The case concerned Terance Gamble who has been convicted by Alabama for possessing a firearm as a felon and now faces prosecution by the United States under its own felon-in-possession law. Gamble moved to dismiss, arguing that the federal indictment exposed him to double jeopardy under the Fifth Amendment and asked to overrule the dual-sovereignty doctrine.
The Constitution’s double jeopardy clause generally forbids any person be “for the same offence…twice put in jeopardy”. But the Supreme Court has long held that under “dual-sovereignty” doctrine, a State may prosecute a defendant under state law even if the Federal Government has prosecuted him for the same conduct under a federal statute.
The Court rejected his arguments, holding the dual-sovereignty doctrine is not an exception to the double jeopardy right but follows from the Fifth Amendment’s text. Justice Alito wrote in the majority’s opinion that states are separate sovereigns much as foreign nations are.