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SCOTUS Reaffirms Prior Rulings for Double Jeopardy

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that no person shall be twice put in jeopardy for the same offense.

In Gamble v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 1960 (2019), the defendant was charged and convicted with being a felon in possession of a firearm under Alabama state law. He was later charged and convicted with being a felon in possession of a firearm under federal law based upon the same conduct for which he had been prosecuted under Alabama state law.

The Supreme Court of the United States applied the “Separate Sovereigns Exception” to the Double Jeopardy Clause. As originally understood, an “offense” is defined by a law, and each law is defined by a sovereign. Thus, where there are two sovereigns – i.e., state and federal – there are two laws and two “offenses.”

The Court upheld its prior rulings on this issue and found that a person can be charged with a state and federal crime arising out of the same incident.