Blackledge v. Perry - 417 U.S. 21 (1974)
U.S. Supreme Court
Blackledge v. Perry, 417 U.S. 21 (1974)
Blackledge v. Perry
Argued February 19, 1974
Decided May 20, 1974
417 U.S. 21
Respondent, a North Carolina prison inmate, had an altercation with another prisoner, and was charged with the misdemeanor of assault with a deadly weapon, of which he was convicted in the State District Court. While respondent's subsequent appeal was pending in the Superior Court, where he had the right to a trial de novo, the prosecutor obtained an indictment covering the same conduct for the felony offense of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflict serious bodily injury, to which respondent pleaded guilty. Thereafter, respondent applied for a writ of habeas corpus in Federal District Court, claiming, inter alia, that the felony indictment deprived him of due process. The District Court granted the writ, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.
1. The indictment on the felony charge contravened the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, since a person convicted of a misdemeanor in North Carolina is entitled to pursue his right under state law to a trial de novo without apprehension that the State will retaliate by substituting a more serious charge for the original one and thus subject him to a significantly increased potential period of incarceration. Cf. North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U. S. 711. Pp. 417 U. S. 24-29.
2. Since North Carolina, having chosen originally to proceed against respondent on the misdemeanor charge in the State District Court, was precluded by the Due Process Clause from even prosecuting respondent for the more serious charge in the Superior Court, respondent's guilty plea to the felony charge did not bar him from raising his constitutional claim in the federal habeas corpus proceeding. Tollett v. Henderson, 411 U. S. 258, distinguished. Pp. 417 U. S. 29-31.
STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in Part II of which POWELL, J., joined, post, p. 417 U. S. 32.