Fiore v. White,
531 U.S. 225 (2001)

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No. 98-942. Argued October 12, 1999-Question certified November 30, 1999-Decided January 9, 2001

Petitioner Fiore was convicted of violating a Pennsylvania statute prohibiting the operation of a hazardous waste facility without a permit, although the Commonwealth conceded that he in fact had a permit. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined review, but later reversed the conviction of his co-defendant, Scarpone, who had been convicted of the same crime at the same time. After the Pennsylvania courts denied him collateral relief, Fiore brought a federal habeas action. The District Court granted the writ, but the Third Circuit reversed, believing that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in Scarpone's case, had announced a new rule of law, inapplicable to Fiore's already final conviction. This Court granted certiorari to determine whether Fiore's conviction was inconsistent with the Due Process Clause, and certified to the Pennsylvania court the question whether its decision interpreting the statute not to apply to conduct like Fiore's was a new interpretation or a correct statement of the law when his conviction became final, 528 U. S. 23, 29. The latter court responded that the statute's interpretation set out in Commonwealth v. Scarpone, 535 Pa. 273, 639 A. 2d 1109, merely clarified the statute and was the law-as properly interpretedat the time of Fiore's conviction.

Held: Fiore's conviction fails to satisfy due process. Because Scarpone was not new law, this case presents no retroactivity issue. Rather, the question is simply whether Pennsylvania can convict Fiore for conduct that its criminal statute, as properly interpreted, does not prohibit. The Due Process Clause forbids a State to convict a person of a crime without proving the crime's elements beyond a reasonable doubt. See Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U. S. 307, 316. Here, failure to possess a permit is a basic element of the crime of which Fiore was convicted, and the parties agree that the Commonwealth presented no evidence to prove that element.

149 F.3d 221, reversed and remanded.

After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's response to the certified question, supplemental briefs were filed by James Brandon Lieber and Harold Gondelman, for petitioner, and


Per Curiam

by D. Michael Fisher, Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Robert A. Graci, Assistant Executive Deputy Attorney General, and Andrea F. McKenna, Senior Deputy Attorney General, for respondents.


Petitioner, William Fiore, was convicted of violating a Pennsylvania statute prohibiting the operation of a hazardous waste facility without a permit. After Fiore's conviction became final, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court interpreted the statute for the first time, and made clear that Fiore's conduct was not within its scope. However, the Pennsylvania courts refused to grant Fiore collateral relief. We granted certiorari in part to decide when, or whether, the Federal Due Process Clause requires a State to apply a new interpretation of a state criminal statute retroactively to cases on collateral review.

In order to determine if that question was in fact presented, we asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court whether its decision interpreting the statute not to apply to conduct like Fiore's was a new interpretation, or whether it was, instead, a correct statement of the law when Fiore's conviction became final. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, responding to our certified question, has now made clear that retroactivity is not at issue. At the same time, that court's interpretation of its statute makes clear that Fiore did not violate the statute. We consequently find that his conviction is not consistent with the demands of the Federal Due Process Clause. See Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U. S. 307, 316 (1979).


This case, previously described in greater detail in our opinion certifying the state-law question to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 528 U. S. 23 (1999), arises out of William Fiore's conviction under a Pennsylvania statute that prohibits "operat[ing] a hazardous waste" facility without a "per-

Full Text of Opinion

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