North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U.S. 711 (1969)

2012-08-10 16:42:41

In North Carolina v. Pearce, the Supreme Court addressed two issues involving the Sentencing upon reconviction of individuals who have successfully attacked their original convictions: whether the Constitution requires that they be given credit toward the new sentence for time already served on the original sentence, and the constitutional limitations on imposition of a harsher sentence for the same offense after retrial.

Justice Stewart writing for the Court found the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment ‘‘protects against multiple punishments for the same offense’’ (citing Ex parte Lange [1894]). A failure to give full credit toward the new sentence for the portion of the original sentence served violates this protection. Thus, all time previously served by the individual on the original sentence must be subtracted from the sentence imposed at retrial.

On the second question, the Court held neither the protection against double jeopardy nor the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides an absolute prohibition against imposition of a longer sentence upon reconviction. Justice Stewart held that vindictiveness or the punishment of an individual for successfully challenging his original conviction would be a patent violation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. As a protection against such motivation, the Court required that the imposition of a longer sentence upon retrial must be accompanied by a statement in the record of the judge’s reasons for a harsher sentence. The court also indicated these reasons must be based upon ‘‘identifiable conduct on the part of the defendant occurring after the time of the original Sentencing proceeding.’’ Subsequent cases have limited the application of the presumption of vindictiveness from a silent record.


References and Further Reading

  • Alabama v. Smith, 490 U.S. 794 (1989).
  • North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U.S. 711 (1969).
  • Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465 (1976).
  • Texas v. McCullough, 475 U.S. 134 (1986).
  • United States v. Goodwin, 457 U.S. 368 (1982).

Cases and Statutes Cited

  • Ex parte Lange, 85 U.S. 163; 18 Wall. 163 (1894)

See also Double Jeopardy:Modern History; Due Process