Illinois v. Vitale
Annotate this Case
447 U.S. 410 (1980)
U.S. Supreme Court
Illinois v. Vitale, 447 U.S. 410 (1980)
Illinois v. Vitale
Argued January 8, 1980
Decided June 19, 1980
447 U.S. 410
As the result of an accident in which an automobile driven by respondent struck and killed two children, respondent was convicted for failing to reduce speed to avoid the accident in violation of an Illinois statute. Subsequently, based on the same accident, respondent was charged with involuntary manslaughter under another Illinois statute. Ultimately, after the Illinois trial and intermediate appellate courts had held that the manslaughter prosecution was barred on statutory grounds, the Illinois Supreme Court held that it was barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, as applied to the States through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the court reasoning that, because the lesser offense required no proof beyond that necessary for a conviction of the greater offense of involuntary manslaughter, the greater offense was the "same" as the lesser-included offense.
Held: The Double Jeopardy Clause does not necessarily prohibit Illinois from prosecuting respondent for involuntary manslaughter. Pp. 447 U. S. 415-421.
(a) Whether the offense of failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident is the "same offense" for double jeopardy purposes as the manslaughter charges, depends on whether each statute in question requires proof of a fact which the other does not. Blockburger v. United States, 284 U. S. 299. Pp. 447 U. S. 415-416.
(b) Thus, if manslaughter by automobile does not always entail proof of a failure to reduce speed, then the two offenses are not the "same" under the Blockburger test. And the mere possibility that the State will seek to rely on all of the ingredients necessarily included in the traffic offense to establish an element of its manslaughter case would not be sufficient to bar the latter prosecution. Pp. 447 U. S. 416-419.
(c) But if, as a matter of Illinois law, a careless failure to reduce speed is always a necessary element of manslaughter by automobile, then the two offenses are the "same" under Blockburger and respondent's trial on the latter charge would constitute double jeopardy. Brown v. Ohio, 432 U. S. 161. In any event, if in the pending manslaughter prosecution Illinois relies on and proves a failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident as the reckless act necessary to prove manslaughter, respondent would have a substantial claim of double jeopardy. Pp. 447 U. S. 419-421.
(d) Because the relationship under Illinois law between the crimes of involuntary manslaughter and a careless failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident is unclear, and because the reckless act or acts the State will rely on to prove manslaughter are still unknown, the Illinois Supreme Court's judgment is vacated and the case is remanded to that court for further proceedings. P. 447 U. S. 421.
71 Ill.2d 229, 375 N.E.2d 87, vacated and remanded.
WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, STEWART, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 447 U. S. 421.