395 U.S. 711 (1969), 413, North Carolina v. Pearce

Docket Nº:Nos. 413 and 418.
Citation:395 U.S. 711, 89 S.Ct. 2072, 23 L.Ed.2d 656
Party Name:State of NORTH CAROLINA et al., Petitioners, v. Clifton A. PEARCE. Curtis M. SIMPSON, Warden, Petitioner, v. William S. RICE.
Case Date:June 23, 1969
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 711

395 U.S. 711 (1969)

89 S.Ct. 2072, 23 L.Ed.2d 656

State of NORTH CAROLINA et al., Petitioners,


Clifton A. PEARCE.

Curtis M. SIMPSON, Warden, Petitioner,


William S. RICE.

Nos. 413 and 418.

United States Supreme Court.

June 23, 1969

Argued Feb. 24, 1969.

Mr. Justice Black and Mr. Justice Harlan dissented in part.

For concurring opinion see 89 S.Ct. 2089.


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[89 S.Ct. 2074] Andrew A. Vanore, Jr., Raleigh, N.C., for petitioners North Carolina and others.

Larry B. Sitton, Greensboro, N.C., for respondent, Pearce.

Paul T. Gish, Jr., Montgomery, Ala., for petitioner, Simpson.

Thomas S. Lawson, Jr., Montgomery, Ala., for respondent, Rice.


Page 713

Mr. Justice STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

When at the behest of the defendant a criminal conviction has been set aside and a new trial ordered, to what extent does the Constitution limit the imposition of a harsher sentence after conviction upon retrial? That is the question presented by these two cases.

In No. 413 the respondent Pearce was convicted in a North Carolina court upon a charge of assault with intent to commit rape. The trial judge sentenced him to prison for a term of 12 to 15 years. Several years later he initiated a state post-conviction proceeding which culminated in the reversal of his conviction by the Supreme Court of North Carolina, upon the ground that an involuntary confession had unconstitutionally been admitted in evidence against him, 266 N.C. 234, 145 S.E.2d 918. He was retried, convicted, and sentenced by the trial judge to an eight-year prison term, which, when added to the time Pearce had already spent in prison, the parties agree amounted to a longer total sentence than that originally imposed. 1 The conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal. 268 N.C. 707, 151 S.E.2d 571. Pearce then began this habeas corpus proceeding in the United States District Court for the Eastern District

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of North Carolina. That court held, upon the authority of a then very recent Fourth Circuit decision, Patton v. North Carolina, 381 F.2d 636, cert. denied, 390 U.S. 905, 88 S.Ct. 818, 19 L.Ed.2d 871, that the longer sentence imposed upon retrial was 'unconstitutional and void.' 2 [89 S.Ct. 2075] Upon the failure of the state court to resentence Pearce within 60 days, the federal court ordered his release. This order was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, 397 F.2d 253, in a brief per curiam judgment citing its Patton decision, and we granted certiorari. 393 U.S. 922, 89 S.Ct. 258, 21 L.Ed.2d 258.

In No. 418 the respondent Rice pleaded guilty in an Alabama trial court to four separate charges of second-degree burglary. He was sentenced to prison terms aggregating 10 years. 3 Two and one-half years later the judgments were set aside in a state coram nobis proceeding, upon the ground that Rice had not been accorded his constitutional right to counsel. See Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 83 S.Ct. 792, 9 L.Ed.2d 799. He was retried upon three of the charges, convicted, and sentenced to prison terms aggregating 25 years. 4 No credit was given for the time he had spent in prison on the original judgments. He then brought this habeas corpus proceeding in the United States District Court for the Middle District of

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Alabama, alleging that the state trial court had acted unconstitutionally in failing to give him credit for the time he had already served in prison, and in imposing grossly harsher sentences upon retrial. United States District Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., agreed with both contentions. While stating that he did 'not believe that it is constitutionally impermissible to impose a harsher sentence upon retrial if there is recorded in the court record some legal justification for it,' Judge Johnson found that Rice had been denied due process of law, because '(u) nder the evidence in this case, the conclusion is inescapable that the State of Alabama is punishing petitioner Rice for his having exercised his post-conviction right of review and for having the original sentences declared unconstitutional.' 274 F.Supp. 116, 121, 122. The judgment of the District Court was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, 'on the basis of Judge Johnson's opinion,' 396 F.2d 499, 500, and we granted certiorari. 393 U.S. 932, 89 S.Ct. 292, 21 L.Ed.2d 268.

The problem before us 5 involves two related but analytically separate issues. One concerns the constitutional

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limitations upon the imposition of a more severe punishment after conviction for the same offense upon retrial. The other is the more limited question whether, in computing the new sentence, the Constitution [89 S.Ct. 2076] requires that credit must be given for that part of the original sentence already served. The second question is not presented in Pearce, for in North Carolina it appears to be the law that a defendant must be given full credit for all time served under the previous sentence. State v. Stafford, 274 N.C. 519, 164 S.E.2d 371; State v. Paige, 272 N.C. 417, 158 S.E.2d 522; State v. Weaver, 264 N.C. 681, 142 S.E.2d 633. In any event, Pearce was given such credit. 6 Alabama law, however, seems to reflect a different view. Aaron v. State, 43 Ala.App. 450, 192 So.2d 456; Ex parte Merkes, 43 Ala.App. 640, 198 So.2d 789. 7 And respondent Rice, upon being resentenced, was given no credit at all for the two and one-half years he had already spent in prison.

We turn first to the more limited aspect of the question before us--whether the Constitution requires that, in computing the sentence imposed after conviction upon

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retrial, credit must be given for time served under the original sentence. We then consider the broader question of what constitutional limitations there may be upon the imposition of a more severe sentence after reconviction.


The Court has held today, in Benton v. Maryland, 395 U.S. 784, 89 S.Ct. 2056, 23 L.Ed.2d 707, that the Fifth Amendment guarantee against double jeopardy is enforceable against the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. That guarantee has been said to consist of three separate constitutional protections. 8 It protects against a second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal. 9 It protects against a second prosecution for the same offense after conviction. 10 And it protects against multiple punishments for the same offense. 11 This last protection is what is necessarily implicated in any consideration of the question whether, in the imposition of sentence for the same offense after retrial, the Constitution requires that credit must be given for punishment already endured. The Court stated the controlling constitutional principle almost 100 years ago, in the landmark case of Ex parte Lange, 18 Wall. 163, 168, 21 L.Ed. 872:

'If there is anything settled in the jurisprudence of England and America, it is that no man can be twice lawfully punished for the same offence. And * * * there has never been [89 S.Ct. 2077] any doubt of (this rule's) entire and complete protection of the party

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when a second punishment is proposed in the same court, on the same facts, for the same statutory offense.

'* * * (T)he Constitution was designed as much to prevent the criminal from being twice punished for the same offense as from being twice tried for it.' Id., at 173.

We think it is clear that this basic constitutional guarantee is violated when punishment already exacted for an offense is not fully 'credited' in imposing sentence upon a new conviction for the same offense. The constitutional violation is flagrantly apparent in a case involving the imposition of a maximum sentence after reconviction. Suppose, for example, in a jurisdiction where the maximum allowable sentence for larceny is 10 years' imprisonment, a man succeeds in getting his larceny conviction set aside after serving three years in prison. If, upon reconviction, he is given a 10-year sentence, then, quite clearly, he will have received multiple punishments for the same offense. For he will have been compelled to serve separate prison terms of three years and 10 years, although the maximum single punishment for the offense is 10 years' imprisonment. Though not so dramatically evident, the same principle obviously holds true whenever punishment already endured is not fully subtracted from any new sentence imposed. 12

We hold that the constitutional guarantee against multiple punishments for the same offense absolutely requires that punishment already exacted must be fully

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'credited' 13 in imposing sentence upon a new conviction for the same offense. If, upon a new trial, the defendant is acquitted, there is no way the years he spent in prison can be returned to him. But if he is reconvicted, those years can and must be returned--by subtracting them from whatever new sentence is imposed.


To hold that the second sentence must be reduced by the time served under the first is, however, to give but a partial answer to the question before us. 14 We turn, therefore, to consideration of the broader problem of what constitutional limitations there may be upon the general power of a judge to impose upon reconviction a longer prison sentence than the defendant originally received.


Long-established constitutional doctrine makes clear that, beyond the requirement already discussed, the guarantee against double jeopardy imposes no [89 S.Ct. 2078] restrictions upon the length of a sentence imposed upon reconviction. At least since 1896, when United States v. Ball, 163 U.S. 662, 16 S.Ct. 1192, 41 L.Ed. 300,

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was decided, it has been settled that this constitutional guarantee imposes no limitations whatever upon the power to retry a defendant who has succeeded in getting his first conviction set aside. 15 'The principle that this provision...

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