Dual Prosecution by State and Federal Government Remains Permissible

In Gamble v. United States, No. 17-646, the Supreme Court upheld the separate sovereignty exception to the double-jeopardy rule, allowing both the federal and state governments to prosecute the exact same offense conduct.

The petitioner in Gamble was convicted and sentenced in Alabama state court to 10 years imprisonment (all but 1 year suspended) for the possession of a firearm by a felon.  Apparently determining that Gamble’s sentence was too lenient, the federal government later prosecuted him for the same offense under federal law, resulting in almost 3 more years in prison.  

In a 7-2 opinion, the Supreme Court reaffirmed its longstanding reasoning that the federal government and each state are separate sovereigns that can punish the same crime twice without violating the 5th Amendment’s double jeopardy clause.

Given the 170 year history of the separate sovereignty exception, repeated and failed attempts to reverse it, and the solid 7-2 majority reaffirming it, there is no longer any question as to whether successive prosecutions for the same offense by state and federal governments is constitutional.

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