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Gamble v. United States (U.S. Sup. Ct.)

READ CAC’S BRIEF IN Gamble v. United States

In Gamble v. United States, the Supreme Court is being asked to consider whether the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits any person from being prosecuted for the same offense more than once, bars a federal prosecution for a criminal offense when the defendant has already been prosecuted for the same offense in state court.

In 2015, a police officer in Mobile, Alabama pulled Terance Martez Gamble over for a broken tail light on his car.  During the stop, the officer discovered both a gun and marijuana paraphernalia in Gamble’s car.  Gamble, who had been convicted of second-degree felony robbery seven years earlier, was barred from owning a firearm.  The state of Alabama prosecuted Gamble for illegal possession of a firearm, and he served one year in prison.  Subsequently, the federal government also charged Gamble with illegal possession of a firearm in relation the same 2015 incident.  Gamble asked the U.S. District Court to dismiss his federal indictment on the ground that it violated his Fifth Amendment protection from Double Jeopardy.  The District Court ruled that the dual-sovereignty exception to the Double Jeopardy Clause, which permits a second prosecution for the same offense by a different “sovereign,” permitted the federal case to proceed.  Gamble appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and that court affirmed the lower court’s decision.  Gamble, who is now serving time in federal prison, asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its past decisions allowing successive prosecutions for the same offense by different sovereigns (i.e., the “dual-sovereignty doctrine”).

On December 4, 2017, CAC, along with the Cato Institute, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Gamble, urging the Supreme Court to grant review and hold that the dual-sovereignty exception to the Double Jeopardy Clause is inconsistent with the text, structure, and history of the Constitution.  We argue that both the Double Jeopardy Clause and our federalist structure of government were adopted to protect individual liberty, and that the dual-sovereignty exception to the Double Jeopardy Clause undermines this protection.  As we explain, concerns about government overreach and harassment that the Double Jeopardy Clause was adopted to prevent are particularly important today, given the expansive scope of federal criminal law and the significant federal-state cooperation in criminal law enforcement. 

Finally, our brief explains why changes in constitutional law that have occurred since the Court last meaningfully considered the dual-sovereignty exception make review now particularly important.  The dual-sovereignty exception was first adopted against the backdrop of a legal regime in which the Double Jeopardy Clause did not apply to the states.  Whatever validity the doctrine may have had then, it has been completely undermined by subsequent decisions of the Supreme Court that recognize that the Fourteenth Amendment protects against state infringement the personal rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, including the Double Jeopardy Clause.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide early next year whether to hear this case.

Briefs filed by CAC: