RINALDI V. UNITED STATES, 434 U. S. 22 (1977)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Rinaldi v. United States, 434 U.S. 22 (1977)

Rinaldi v. United States

No. 76-6194

Decided November 7, 1977

434 U.S. 22


After petitioner was convicted of state offenses arising out of a robbery, he was tried and convicted of a federal offense arising out of the same robbery, in violation of the Government's policy against multiple prosecutions for the same act (the so-called Petite policy based on Petite v. United States, 361 U. S. 529). Government trial counsel had represented to the District Court that the Government had decided vigorously to prosecute the federal charges in spite of the prior state prosecution, when in fact the federal prosecution had not been authorized as required by the Petite policy. Thereafter, notwithstanding the Government's subsequent acknowledgement that the Petite policy had been violated, the District Court denied the Government's motion to dismiss the indictment pursuant to Fed.Rule Crim.Proc. 48(a) (which provides that the Government may "by leave of court" file a dismissal of an indictment), on the ground, inter alia, that the prosecutor had acted in bad faith by representing to the court that he had been properly instructed to maintain the prosecution despite the prior state convictions. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: The District Court abused its discretion in denying the Government's motion to dismiss on the ground that the violation of the Petite policy resulted from prosecutorial misconduct, rather than inadvertence. The salient issue is not whether the decision to prosecute was made in bad faith, but rather whether the Government's later efforts to terminate the prosecution were similarly tainted with impropriety. It does not appear that there was any bad faith on the Government's part at the time it sought leave to dismiss the indictment, but rather that the decision to terminate the prosecution, based as it was on the Petite policy, was motivated by considerations which cannot fairly be characterized as "clearly contrary to manifest public interest." The overriding purpose of that policy is to protect the individual from any unfairness associated with needless multiple prosecutions, and accordingly the defendant should receive the benefit of the policy whenever its application is urged by the Government.

Certiorari granted; 544 F.2d 203, vacated and remanded.

Page 434 U. S. 23

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