Graham v. West Virginia,
224 U.S. 616 (1912)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Graham v. West Virginia, 224 U.S. 616 (1912)

Graham v. West Virginia

No. 721

Argued April 17, 1912

Decided May 13, 1912

224 U.S. 616


The statute of West Virginia providing that, where a prisoner has been convicted and sentenced to the penitentiary, the question of his identity with one previously convicted one or more times can be tried on information, and if proved, imposing additional imprisonment in case of one prior conviction for five year, and, in case of two convictions, for life, is not unconstitutional, as to one twice previously convicted and on whom life imprisonment has been imposed, either as depriving him of his liberty without due process of law, denying him the equal protection of the law, placing him in second jeopardy for the same offense, abridging his privilege and immunities as a citizen of the United States, or inflicting cruel and unusual punishment.

The propriety of inflicting severer punishment upon old offenders has long been recognized in this country and in England -- such increased punishment is not a second punishment for the earlier crime, but is justified by the repetition of criminal conduct.

One who has been convicted before is not denied due process of law by having the question of identity passed upon separately from the question of guilt of the second offense.

A state which adopts the policy of heavier punishment for repeated offending may provide for guarding against second offenders' escaping by reason of their identity's not being known at the time of sentence.

Proceeding by information instead of indictment to ascertain the identity of a convicted criminal with one previously convicted doe not deny due process of law or equal protection of the law, and this even if other persons accused of crime are proceeded against by indictment.

Page 224 U. S. 617

The Fourteenth Amendment did not introduce a factitious equality without regard to practical differences that are best met by corresponding differences of treatment, Standard Oil Co. v. Tennessee, 217 U. S. 413, and a state may make different arrangements for trials under different circumstances of even the same class of offenses if all in the same class are subject to the same procedure.

Where one has been charged with having been previously convicted of another offense, he is not put in double jeopardy by having the question of his identity determined by a trial, nor are any of his immunities and privileges as a citizen of the United States abridged. The imposition of a heavier penalty for repeated offenses does not amount to inflicting a cruel and unusual punishment.

Questions of validity of a state penal statute under the state constitution are not open in this Court.

68 W.Va. 248 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the constitutionality of a statute of West Virginia providing for heavier penalties on persons convicted of crime if previously convicted, and for determining the identity of persons formerly convicted, are stated in the opinion.

Page 224 U. S. 620

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