Gamble v. United States, No. 17-646

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJustice ALITO delivered the opinion of the Court.
Citation139 S.Ct. 1960
Parties Terance Martez GAMBLE, Petitioner v. UNITED STATES
Docket NumberNo. 17-646
Decision Date17 June 2019

139 S.Ct. 1960

Terance Martez GAMBLE, Petitioner
v.
UNITED STATES

No. 17-646

Supreme Court of the United States.

Argued December 6, 2018
Decided June 17, 2019


139 S.Ct. 1962

Jeffrey B. Wall, Acting Solicitor General, Brian A. Benczkowski, Assistant Attorney General, Eric J. Feigin, Jenny C. Ellickson, Assistants to the Solicitor General, Ross B. Goldman, Attorney, Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Respondent.

Barre C. Dumas, Mobile, AL, Robert N. Stander, Jones Day, Washington, DC, Louis A. Chaiten, Emmett E. Robinson, Jones Day, Cleveland, OH, Amanda K. Rice, Jones Day, Detroit, MI, for Petitioner.

Louis A. Chaiten, Cleveland, OH, for Petitioner.

Eric J. Feigin, Washington, DC, for Respondent.

Kyle D. Hawkins, Solicitor General, for Texas, et al. as amicus curiae, in support of affirmance.

Justice ALITO delivered the opinion of the Court.

139 S.Ct. 1963

We consider in this case whether to overrule a longstanding interpretation of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment. That Clause provides that no person may be "twice put in jeopardy" "for

139 S.Ct. 1964

the same offence." Our double jeopardy case law is complex, but at its core, the Clause means that those acquitted or convicted of a particular "offence" cannot be tried a second time for the same "offence." But what does the Clause mean by an "offence"?

We have long held that a crime under one sovereign's laws is not "the same offence" as a crime under the laws of another sovereign. Under this "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.

Or the reverse may happen, as it did here. Terance Gamble, convicted by Alabama for possessing a firearm as a felon, now faces prosecution by the United States under its own felon-in-possession law. Attacking this second prosecution on double jeopardy grounds, Gamble asks us to overrule the dual-sovereignty doctrine. He contends that it departs from the founding-era understanding of the right enshrined by the Double Jeopardy Clause. But the historical evidence assembled by Gamble is feeble; pointing the other way are the Clause's text, other historical evidence, and 170 years of precedent. Today we affirm that precedent, and with it the decision below.

I

In November 2015, a local police officer in Mobile, Alabama, pulled Gamble over for a damaged headlight. Smelling marijuana, the officer searched Gamble's car, where he found a loaded 9-mm handgun. Since Gamble had been convicted of second-degree robbery, his possession of the handgun violated an Alabama law providing that no one convicted of "a crime of violence" "shall own a firearm or have one in his or her possession." Ala. Code § 13A–11–72(a) (2015) ; see § 13A–11–70(2) (defining "crime of violence" to include robbery). After Gamble pleaded guilty to this state offense, federal prosecutors indicted him for the same instance of possession under a federal law—one forbidding those convicted of "a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year ... to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition." 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).

Gamble moved to dismiss on one ground: The federal indictment was for "the same offence" as the one at issue in his state conviction and thus exposed him to double jeopardy. But because this Court has long held that two offenses "are not the ‘same offence’ " for double jeopardy purposes if "prosecuted by different sovereigns," Heath v. Alabama , 474 U.S. 82, 92, 106 S.Ct. 433, 88 L.Ed.2d 387 (1985), the District Court denied Gamble's motion to dismiss. Gamble then pleaded guilty to the federal offense while preserving his right to challenge the denial of his motion to dismiss on double jeopardy grounds. But on appeal the Eleventh Circuit affirmed, citing the dual-sovereignty doctrine. 694 Fed. Appx. 750 (2017). We granted certiorari to determine whether to overturn that doctrine.1 585 U.S. ––––, 138 S.Ct. 2707, 201 L.Ed.2d 1095 (2018).

II

Gamble contends that the Double Jeopardy Clause must forbid successive prosecutions by different sovereigns because that is what the founding-era common law

139 S.Ct. 1965

did. But before turning to that historical claim, see Part III infra , we review the Clause's text and some of the cases Gamble asks us to overturn.

A

We start with the text of the Fifth Amendment. Although the dual-sovereignty rule is often dubbed an "exception" to the double jeopardy right, it is not an exception at all. On the contrary, it follows from the text that defines that right in the first place. "[T]he language of the Clause ... protects individuals from being twice put in jeopardy ‘for the same offence ,’ not for the same conduct or actions ," Grady v. Corbin , 495 U.S. 508, 529, 110 S.Ct. 2084, 109 L.Ed.2d 548 (1990), as Justice Scalia wrote in a soon-vindicated dissent, see United States v. Dixon , 509 U.S. 688, 113 S.Ct. 2849, 125 L.Ed.2d 556 (1993) (overruling Grady ). And the term " ‘[o]ffence’ was commonly understood in 1791 to mean ‘transgression,’ that is, ‘the Violation or Breaking of a Law.’ " Grady , 495 U.S. at 529, 110 S.Ct. 2084 (Scalia, J., dissenting) (quoting Dictionarium Britannicum (Bailey ed. 1730)). See also 2 R. Burn & J. Burn, A New Law Dictionary 167 (1792) ("OFFENCE, is an act committed against law, or omitted where the law requires it"). As originally understood, then, an "offence" is defined by a law, and each law is defined by a sovereign. So where there are two sovereigns, there are two laws, and two "offences." See Grady , 495 U.S. at 529, 110 S.Ct. 2084 (Scalia, J., dissenting) ("If the same conduct violates two (or more) laws, then each offense may be separately prosecuted"); Moore v. Illinois , 14 How. 13, 17, 14 L.Ed. 306 (1852) ("The constitutional provision is not, that no person shall be subject, for the same act, to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; but for the same offence , the same violation of law , no person's life or limb shall be twice put in jeopardy" (emphasis added)).

Faced with this reading, Gamble falls back on an episode from the Double Jeopardy Clause's drafting history.2 The first Congress, working on an earlier draft that would have banned " ‘more than one trial or one punishment for the same offence,’ " voted down a proposal to add " ‘by any law of the United States.’ " 1 Annals of Cong. 753 (1789). In rejecting this addition, Gamble surmises, Congress must have intended to bar successive prosecutions regardless of the sovereign bringing the charge.

Even if that inference were justified—something that the Government disputes—it would count for little. The private intent behind a drafter's rejection of one version of a text is shoddy evidence of the public meaning of an altogether different text. Cf. United States v. Craft , 535 U.S. 274, 287, 122 S.Ct. 1414, 152 L.Ed.2d 437 (2002) ("[F]ailed legislative proposals are a particularly dangerous ground on which to rest an interpretation of a prior statute" (internal quotation marks omitted)).

Besides, if we allowed conjectures about purpose to inform our reading of the text, the Government's conjecture would prevail. The Government notes that the Declaration

139 S.Ct. 1966

of Independence denounced King George III for "protecting [British troops] by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States." ¶ 17. The Declaration was alluding to "the so-called Murderers' Act, passed by Parliament after the Boston Massacre," Amar, Sixth Amendment First Principles, 84 Geo. L. J. 641, 687, n. 181 (1996), a law that allowed British officials indicted for murder in America to be " ‘tried in England, beyond the control of local juries.’ " Ibid. (quoting J. Blum et al., The National Experience 95 (3d ed. 1973)). "During the late colonial period, Americans strongly objected to ... [t]his circumvention of the judgment of the victimized community." Amar, 84 Geo. L. Rev., at 687, n. 181. Yet on Gamble's reading, the same Founders who quite literally revolted against the use of acquittals abroad to bar criminal prosecutions here would soon give us an Amendment allowing foreign acquittals to spare domestic criminals. We doubt it.

We see no reason to abandon the sovereign-specific reading of the phrase "same offence," from which the dual-sovereignty rule immediately follows.

B

Our cases reflect the same reading. A close look at them reveals how fidelity to the Double Jeopardy Clause's text does more than honor the formal difference between two distinct criminal codes. It honors the substantive differences between the interests that two sovereigns can have in punishing the same act.

The question of successive federal and state prosecutions arose in three antebellum cases implying and then spelling out the dual-sovereignty doctrine. The first, Fox v. Ohio , 5 How. 410, 12 L.Ed. 213 (1847), involved an Ohio prosecution for the passing of counterfeit coins. The defendant argued that since Congress...

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227 practice notes
  • People v. Fayed, S198132
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 2 Abril 2020
    ...the dual sovereignty doctrine in the Fifth Amendment double jeopardy context. (See Gamble v. United States (2019) ––– U.S. ––––, [139 S.Ct. 1960, 1964, 204 L.Ed.2d 322] ( Gamble ) ["Under this ‘dual-sovereignty’ doctrine, a State may prosecute a defendant under state law even if the Federal......
  • Goodwin v. Iowa Dist. Court, No. 18-0737
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 20 Diciembre 2019
    ...from the Constitution's supremacy over other sources of law—including our own precedents." Gamble v. United States, 587 U.S. ___, ___, 139 S. Ct. 1960, 1984 (2019) (Thomas, J., concurring).Put differently, because the Constitution is supreme over other sources of law, it requires us to priv......
  • United States v. Richardson, 1:97-cr-05129-NONE-3
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • 29 Junio 2021
    ...reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process.’” Gamble v. United States, 139 S.Ct. 1960, 1969 (2019). Here, movant asks the court to ignore not only Buenrostro I but also a longstanding history of similar precedent. This the c......
  • State v. Courtney, No. 160PA18
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 16 Agosto 2019
    ...or convicted of a particular ‘offence’ cannot be tried a second time for the same ‘offence.’ " Gamble v. United States , ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 1960, 1964, 204 L.Ed.2d 322 (2019) (quoting U.S. Const. amend. V ); see id. at 1966–67 (discussing the "abstract principle" that double jeopardy......
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222 cases
  • People v. Fayed, S198132
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 2 Abril 2020
    ...the dual sovereignty doctrine in the Fifth Amendment double jeopardy context. (See Gamble v. United States (2019) ––– U.S. ––––, [139 S.Ct. 1960, 1964, 204 L.Ed.2d 322] ( Gamble ) ["Under this ‘dual-sovereignty’ doctrine, a State may prosecute a defendant under state law even if the Federal......
  • Goodwin v. Iowa Dist. Court, No. 18-0737
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 20 Diciembre 2019
    ...from the Constitution's supremacy over other sources of law—including our own precedents." Gamble v. United States, 587 U.S. ___, ___, 139 S. Ct. 1960, 1984 (2019) (Thomas, J., concurring).Put differently, because the Constitution is supreme over other sources of law, it requires us to priv......
  • United States v. Richardson, 1:97-cr-05129-NONE-3
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • 29 Junio 2021
    ...reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process.’” Gamble v. United States, 139 S.Ct. 1960, 1969 (2019). Here, movant asks the court to ignore not only Buenrostro I but also a longstanding history of similar precedent. This the c......
  • State v. Courtney, No. 160PA18
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 16 Agosto 2019
    ...or convicted of a particular ‘offence’ cannot be tried a second time for the same ‘offence.’ " Gamble v. United States , ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 1960, 1964, 204 L.Ed.2d 322 (2019) (quoting U.S. Const. amend. V ); see id. at 1966–67 (discussing the "abstract principle" that double jeopardy......
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7 books & journal articles
  • Agency Deference After Kisor v. Wilkie
    • United States
    • The Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy Nbr. 18-1, January 2020
    • 1 Enero 2020
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    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 131 Nbr. 7, May 2022
    • 1 Mayo 2022
    ...Criminal Mischief: The Federalization of American Criminal Law, 46 HASTINGS L.J. 1135, 1162 (1995). (224.) See Gamble v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 1960 (225.) MS. Bond v. United States, 564 U.S. 211, 222 (2011). (226.) Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654, 724 n.4 (1988) (Scalia, J., dissenting)......
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    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 97 Nbr. 1, November 2021
    • 1 Noviembre 2021
    ...William Baude, Is Originalism Our Law?, 115 COLUM. L. REV. 2349, 2358-59 (2015) (citing sources). (75) Gamble v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 1960, 1969 (2019) (quoting Welch v. Tex. Dep't of Highways & Pub. Transp., 483 U.S. 468, 479 (76) See Chabot, supra note 8 (manuscript at 18-49); Mo......
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