NORTH CAROLINA V. PEARCE, 395 U. S. 711 (1969)

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U.S. Supreme Court

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

North Carolina v. Pearce

No. 413

Argued February 24, 1969

Decided June 23, 1969*

395 U.S. 711


In each of these cases, the respondent was convicted of a crime and sentenced to a prison term; the original conviction was set aside in a post-conviction proceeding for constitutional error several years later, and, on retrial, the respondent was again convicted and sentenced. In No. 413, the sentence, when added to the time respondent had served, amounted to a longer total sentence than that originally imposed, and in No. 418, respondent received a longer sentence, with no credit being given for the time already served. In neither case was any justification given for imposition of the longer sentence. Respondents sought habeas corpus relief in the District Courts, which, in each instance, held the longer sentence on retrial unconstitutional. The Courts of Appeals affirmed.


1. The basic Fifth Amendment guarantee against double jeopardy, which is enforceable against the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, Benton v. Maryland, post, p. 395 U. S. 784, is violated when punishment already exacted for an offense is not fully "credited" in imposing a new sentence for the same offense. Pp. 395 U. S. 717-719.

2. There is no absolute constitutional bar to imposing a more severe sentence on reconviction. Pp. 395 U. S. 719-723.

(a) The guarantee against double jeopardy does not restrict the length of sentence upon reconviction, the power to impose whatever sentence is legally authorized being a corollary of the well established power to retry a defendant whose conviction has been set aside for an error in the previous proceeding. Pp. 395 U. S. 719-721 .

(b) Imposition of a more severe sentence upon retrial does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, since there is no invidious "classification" of those successfully seeking new trials. Pp. 395 U. S. 722-723.

Page 395 U. S. 712

3. Du process of law requires that vindictiveness against a defendant for having successfully attacked his first conviction must play no part in the sentence he receives after a new trial, and that a defendant be freed of any apprehension of retaliatory motivation on the part of the sentencing judge. Accordingly, the reason for imposition after retrial of a more severe sentence must affirmatively appear in the record, and must be based on objective information concerning the defendant's identifiable conduct after the original sentencing proceeding. Pp. 395 U. S. 723-726.

No. 413, 397 F.2d 253, and No. 418, 396 F.2d 499, affirmed.

Page 395 U. S. 713

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