447 U.S. 410 (1980), 78-1845, Illinois v. Vitale

Docket Nº:No. 78-1845
Citation:447 U.S. 410, 100 S.Ct. 2260, 65 L.Ed.2d 228
Party Name:Illinois v. Vitale
Case Date:June 19, 1980
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 410

447 U.S. 410 (1980)

100 S.Ct. 2260, 65 L.Ed.2d 228

Illinois

v.

Vitale

No. 78-1845

United States Supreme Court

June 19, 1980

Argued January 8, 1980

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS

Syllabus

As the result of an accident in which an automobile driven by respondent struck and killed two children, respondent was convicted for failing to reduce speed to avoid the accident in violation of an Illinois statute. Subsequently, based on the same accident, respondent was charged with involuntary manslaughter under another Illinois statute. [100 S.Ct. 2262] Ultimately, after the Illinois trial and intermediate appellate courts had held that the manslaughter prosecution was barred on statutory grounds, the Illinois Supreme Court held that it was barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, as applied to the States through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the court reasoning that, because the lesser offense required no proof beyond that necessary for a conviction of the greater offense of involuntary manslaughter, the greater offense was the "same" as the lesser-included offense.

Held: The Double Jeopardy Clause does not necessarily prohibit Illinois from prosecuting respondent for involuntary manslaughter. Pp. 415-421.

(a) Whether the offense of failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident is the "same offense" for double jeopardy purposes as the manslaughter charges, depends on whether each statute in question requires proof of a fact which the other does not. Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299. Pp. 415-416.

(b) Thus, if manslaughter by automobile does not always entail proof of a failure to reduce speed, then the two offenses are not the "same" under the Blockburger test. And the mere possibility that the State will seek to rely on all of the ingredients necessarily included in the traffic offense to establish an element of its manslaughter case would not be sufficient to bar the latter prosecution. Pp. 416-419.

(c) But if, as a matter of Illinois law, a careless failure to reduce speed is always a necessary element of manslaughter by automobile, then the two offenses are the "same" under Blockburger and respondent's trial on the latter charge would constitute double jeopardy. Brown v. Ohio, 432 U.S. 161. In any event, if in the pending manslaughter prosecution Illinois relies on and proves a failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident as the reckless act necessary to prove manslaughter, respondent would have a substantial claim of double jeopardy. Pp. 419-421.

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(d) Because the relationship under Illinois law between the crimes of involuntary manslaughter and a careless failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident is unclear, and because the reckless act or acts the State will rely on to prove manslaughter are still unknown, the Illinois Supreme Court's judgment is vacated and the case is remanded to that court for further proceedings. P. 421.

71 Ill.2d 229, 375 N.E.2d 87, vacated and remanded.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, STEWART, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 421.

WHITE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question in this case is whether the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits the State of Illinois (State) from prosecuting for involuntary manslaughter the driver of an automobile involved in a fatal accident who previously has been convicted for failing to reduce speed to avoid the collision.

I

On November 24, 1974, an automobile driven by respondent John Vitale, a juvenile, struck two small children. One of the children died almost immediately; the other died the following day. A police officer at the scene of the accident issued a traffic citation charging Vitale with failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident in violation of § 11-601(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code. Ill.Rev.Stat., ch. 95 1/2, § 11-601(a) (1979). This statute provides in part that

[s]peed must be

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decreased as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person or vehicle on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.1

On December 23, 1974, Vitale appeared in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill., and entered a plea of not guilty to the charge of failing to reduce speed.2 After a trial without a jury, Vitale was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of $15.3

On the following day, December 24, 1974, a petition for adjudication of wardship was filed in the juvenile division of

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the Circuit Court of Cook County, charging Vitale with two counts of involuntary manslaughter.4 The petition, which was signed by the police officer who issued the traffic citation, alleged that Vitale, "without lawful justification while recklessly driving a motor vehicle caused the death of" the two children killed in the November 20, 1974, accident. App. 2.

Vitale's counsel filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds, among others, that the manslaughter prosecution was "violative of statutory and/or constitutional double jeopardy," id. at 7, because of Vitale's previous conviction for failing to reduce speed to avoid the accident. The juvenile court found it unnecessary to reach a constitutional question because it held that the manslaughter prosecution was barred by Illinois statutes requiring, with certain nonpertinent exceptions, that all offenses based on the same conduct be prosecuted in a single prosecution. Ill.Rev.Stat., ch. 38, §§ 3-3 and 3(b)(1) (1979).5 The juvenile [100 S.Ct. 2264] court dismissed the petition for

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adjudication of wardship, and the State appealed. The Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, In re Vitale, 44 Ill.App.3d 1030, 358 N.E.2d 1288 (1976), affirmed the holding that the manslaughter prosecution was barred by the state compulsory joinder statutes. Ill.Rev.Stat., ch. 38, §§ 3-3 and 3(b)(1) (1979).

The Supreme Court of Illinois, with two justices dissenting, affirmed on other grounds. In re Vitale, 71 Ill.2d 229, 375 N.E.2d 87 (1978). The court did not reach the state statutory question, for it found "a more compelling reason why respondent cannot be prosecuted for the offense of involuntary manslaughter": the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, as applied to the States through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. After analyzing the elements of each offense, the court held that, because

the lesser offense, failing to reduce speed, requires no proof beyond that which is necessary for conviction of the greater, involuntary manslaughter, . . . for purposes of the double jeopardy clause, the greater offense is, by definition, the "same" as the lesser offense included within it.

Id. at 239, 375 N.E.2d at 91. Thus the court concluded that the manslaughter

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prosecution was barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause.

The dissenting justices argued that the manslaughter prosecution was not barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause because the homicide charge could be proved by showing one or more reckless acts other than the failure to reduce speed. Id. at 242, 251-253, 375 N.E.2d at 93, 96-97 (Underwood, J., joined by Ryan, J., dissenting).

On November 27, 1978, we granted the State's petition for certiorari, vacated the judgment, and remanded the case to the Supreme Court of Illinois to consider whether its judgment was based upon federal or state constitutional grounds. 439 U.S. 974 (1978). After the Supreme Court of Illinois, on remand, certified that its judgment was based upon federal constitutional grounds, we again granted a writ of certiorari. 444 U.S. 823 (1979)

II

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment provides that no person shall "be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." This constitutional guarantee is applicable to the States through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Benton v. Maryland, 395 U.S. 784 (1969), and it applies not only in traditional criminal proceedings but also in the kind of juvenile proceedings Vitale faced. Breed v. Jones, 421 U.S. 519 (1975).

The constitutional prohibition of double jeopardy has been held to consist of three separate guarantees: (1) "It protects against a second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal. [(2) I]t protects against a second prosecution for the same offense after conviction. [(3)] And it protects against multiple punishments for the same offense." North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U.S. 711, 717 (1969) (footnotes omitted). Because Vitale asserts that his former conviction for failing to reduce speed bars his manslaughter prosecution, we are concerned [100 S.Ct. 2265] with only the second of these three guarantees in the instant case. The sole question before us is whether the

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offense of failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident is the "same offense" for double jeopardy purposes as the manslaughter charges brought against Vitale.

In Brown v. Ohio, 432 U.S. 161 (1977), we stated the principal test for determining whether two offenses are the same for purposes of barring successive prosecutions. Quoting from Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299, 304 (1932), which, in turn, relied on Gavieres v. United States, 220 U.S. 338, 342-343 (1911), we held that

"[t]he applicable rule 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."

432 U.S. at 166. We recognized that the Blockburger test focuses on the proof necessary to prove the statutory elements of each offense, rather than on the actual evidence to be presented...

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