United States v. Scott
Annotate this Case
437 U.S. 82 (1978)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Scott, 437 U.S. 82 (1978)
United States v. Scott
Argued February 21, 1978
Decided June 14, 1978
437 U.S. 82
Respondent, indicted for federal drug offenses, moved before trial and twice during trial for dismissal of two counts of the indictment on the ground that his defense had been prejudiced by preindictment delay. At the close of all the evidence, the trial court granted respondent's motion. The Government sought to appeal the dismissals under 18 U.S.C. § 3731 (1976 ed.), which allows the United States to appeal from a district court's dismissal of an indictment except where the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits further prosecution. The Court of Appeals, concluding that that Clause barred further prosecution, dismissed the appeal, relying on United States v. Jenkins, 420 U. S. 358. In that case the Court, following the principle underlying the Double Jeopardy Clause that the Government, with all its resources and power, should not be allowed to make repeated attempts to convict an individual for an alleged offense, held that, whether or not a dismissal of an indictment after jeopardy had attached amounted to an acquittal on the merits, the Government had no right to appeal, because
"further proceedings of some sort, devoted to the resolution of factual issues going to the elements of the offense charged, would have been required upon reversal and remand."
Held: Where a defendant himself seeks to have his trial terminated without any submission to either judge or jury as to his guilt or innocence, an appeal by the Government from his successful effort to do so does not offend the Double Jeopardy Clause, and hence is not barred by 18 U.S.C. § 3731 (1976 ed.). United States v. Jerkins, supra, overruled. Pp. 437 U. S. 87-101.
(a) The successful appeal of a judgment of conviction, except on the ground of insufficiency of the evidence to support the verdict, Burks v. United States, ante, 437 U. S. 1, does not bar further prosecution on the same charge. A judgment of acquittal, whether based on a jury verdict of not guilty or on a ruling by the court that the evidence is insufficient to convict, may not be appealed, and terminates the prosecution when a second trial would be necessitated by a reversal. Pp. 437 U. S. 87-92.
(b) Where no final determination of guilt or innocence has been made, a trial judge may declare a mistrial on the motion of the prosecution or
upon his own initiative only if "there is a manifest necessity for the act, or the ends of public justice would otherwise be defeated," United States v. Perez, 9 Wheat. 579, 22 U. S. 580, but where a defendant successfully seeks to avoid his trial prior to its conclusion by a motion for a mistrial, the Double Jeopardy Clause is not offended by a second prosecution. Such a motion by the defendant is deemed to be a deliberate election on his part to forgo his valued right to have his guilt or innocence determined by the first trier of fact. United States v. Dinitz, 424 U. S. 600, 424 U. S. 609. Pp. 437 U. S. 92-94.
(c) At least in some cases, the dismissal of an indictment after jeopardy has "attached" may be treated on the same basis as the declaration of a mistrial, even though a successful Government appeal would require further trial court proceedings leading to the factual resolution of the issue of guilt or innocence, see Lee v. United States, 432 U. S. 23; and the Court's growing experience with Government appeals calls for a reexamination of the rationale in Jenkins in light of Lee; United States v. Martin Linen Supply Co., 430 U. S. 564, and other recent expositions of the Double Jeopardy Clause. Pp. 437 U. S. 94-95.
(d) In a situation such as the instant one, where a defendant chooses to avoid conviction not because of his assertion that the Government has failed to make out a case against him, but because of a legal claim that the Government's case against him must fail even though it might satisfy the trier of fact that he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant, by deliberately choosing to seek termination of the trial, suffers no injury cognizable under the Double Jeopardy Clause if the Government is permitted to appeal from such a trial court ruling favoring the defendant. The Double Jeopardy Clause, which guards against Government oppression, does not relieve a defendant of the consequences of his voluntary choice. Pp. 437 U. S. 95-101. 544 F.2d 903, reversed and remanded.
REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which WHITE, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 437 U. S. 101.
Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.