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U.S. Supreme Court Issues Decision that Could Affect Defendants in Cape Cod Criminal Cases

If you are facing prosecution for an alleged criminal act in Cape Cod or elsewhere in Massachusetts, it is important that you know and understand your constitutional rights.  A skillful legal advocate can review the facts and ultimately have a profound impact on your Cape Cod criminal defense case.

One of the rights that is generally afforded under the United States Constitution is the right not to be put on trial a second time for the same criminal offense. Of course, there are some conditions that come with the Double Jeopardy Clause, some of which are long-standing and some of which are still being litigated today.

The United States Supreme Court recently weighed in on a case in which a defendant urged that the clause prevented him from being convicted in both state and federal court for the same basic offense.

Facts of the Case

In a recent federal case, the defendant was a man who, after having pleaded guilty to a state law charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, was indicted by federal prosecutors for the same instance of possession of a weapon pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the federal charges, arguing that the state offense and the federal offense were essentially the “same offense” such that he was being unconstitutionally put in double jeopardy. The federal district court denied the defendant’s motion.

The defendant pleaded guilty to the federal offense but preserved his right to challenge his double jeopardy motion to dismiss in a higher court. On appeal, the federal circuit court affirmed, relying upon the dual-sovereignty doctrine expressed in prior case law. The United States Supreme Court granted the defendant’s request for certiorari.

The Decision of the United States Supreme Court

The nation’s highest court affirmed the lower tribunal’s decisions, opting not to overturn the dual sovereignty doctrine relied upon by the circuit court. The Court explained that, although the dual sovereignty rule has been referred to as an “exception” to the general prohibition against double jeopardy, it was actually not an exception at all. Rather, according to the Court, the doctrine honored the substantive differences between the interests of two separate sovereigns (the state government and the federal government in this particular case) in punishing the same act.

In so holding, the majority of the court noted that a dissenting judge had found it to be error to treat the federal and state governments as two separate sovereigns because “sovereignty belongs to the people.” According to the majority, the people are indeed sovereign but that did not mean that they had conferred all of the attributes of sovereignty upon a single government.

Hire an Experienced Cape Cod Criminal Defense Attorney

At The Law Offices of John C. Manoog III, our knowledgeable Cape Cod criminal defense lawyers work hard to defend the rights of our clients. This means holding police and prosecutors accountable, filing motions to suppress illegally obtained evidence, and seeking the best possible outcome under the circumstances presented. If you have been arrested recently in Hyannis or Plymouth, call us at 888-262-6664 to schedule an appointment to discuss your criminal defense with a member of our team.