United States v. Tateo, 377 U.S. 463 (1964)

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During an individual’s trial for multiple offenses, the judge announced that if the jury convicted the accused, he would impose a life sentence on one charge and consecutive sentences on the others. In response, the accused pleaded guilty, and the judge discharged the jury and sentenced the accused to imprisonment for a term of years. The accused subsequently succeeded in having his conviction set aside on the ground that his guilty plea was involuntary. When the government sought to retry the accused for the original offenses, the trial court dismissed the charges, because it concluded that a new trial would place the accused twice in jeopardy for the same offenses in violation of the double jeopardy clause.

In United States v. Tateo, however, the United States Supreme Court held that a retrial would not constitute double jeopardy. The Court reiterated the rule that the double jeopardy provision does not preclude the government from retrying an individual whose conviction is set aside at his own behest because of an error in the proceedings leading to that conviction. More importantly, though, the Court articulated the current rationale underlying the rule: first, granting immunity from punishment to an accused because of a defect in the proceedings leading to his conviction is too high a price for society to pay; and second, reviewing courts might be less zealous in protecting against the effects of errors at trial if they knew that reversing an individual’s conviction would bar the government from further prosecuting that individual.


References and Further Reading

  • LaFave, Wayne R., Jerold H. Israel, and Nancy J. King. Criminal Procedure. 4th ed., St. Paul: Thompson-West, 2004, pp. 1200–1201.
  • Rudstein, David S. Double Jeopardy: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004, pp. 98–106.

See also Burks v. United States, 437 U.S. 1 (1978); Double Jeopardy: Modern History