ALBERNAZ V. UNITED STATES, 450 U. S. 333 (1981)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Albernaz v. United States, 450 U.S. 333 (1981)

Albernaz v. United States

No. 79-1709

Argued January 19, 1981

Decided March g, 1981

450 U.S. 333


Petitioners, who were involved in an agreement to import marihuana and then to distribute it domestically, were convicted on separate counts of conspiracy to import marihuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 963, and conspiracy to distribute marihuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. These statutes are parts of different subchapters of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. Petitioners received consecutive sentences on each count, the length of each of their combined sentences exceeding the maximum which could have been imposed either for a conviction of conspiracy to import or for a conviction of conspiracy to distribute. The Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions and sentences.


1. Congress intended to permit the imposition of consecutive sentences for violations of §§ 846 and 963 even though such violations arose from a single agreement or conspiracy having dual objectives. Pp. 450 U. S. 336-343.

(a) In determining whether Congress intended to authorize cumulative punishments, the applicable rule, announced in Blockburger v. United States, 284 U. S. 299, 284 U. S. 304, is that

"where the same act or transaction constitutes a violation of two distinct statutory provisions, the test to be applied to determine whether there are two offenses or only one is whether each provision requires proof of a fact which the other does not."

The statutory provisions involved here specify different ends as the proscribed object of the conspiracy -- "distribution" and "importation" -- and clearly satisfy the Blockburger test. Each provision requires proof of a fact that the other does not, and thus §§ 846 and 963 proscribe separate statutory offenses the violations of which can result in the imposition of consecutive sentences. Braverman v. United States, 317 U. S. 49 distinguished. Pp. 450 U. S. 337-340.

(b) While the Blockburger test is not controlling where there is a clear indication of contrary legislative intent, if anything is to be assumed from the legislative history's silence on the question whether consecutive sentences can be imposed for a conspiracy to import and distribute drugs, it is that Congress was aware of the Blockburger rule,

Page 450 U. S. 334

and legislated with it in mind. And the rule of lenity has no application in this case, since there is no statutory ambiguity. Pp. 450 U. S. 340-343.

2. The imposition of consecutive sentences for petitioners' violations of §§ 846 and 963 does not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment. In determining whether punishments imposed after a conviction are unconstitutionally multiple, the dispositive question is whether Congress intended to authorize separate punishments for the crimes. Where Congress intended, as it did here, to impose multiple punishments, imposition of such sentences does not violate the Constitution. Pp. 450 U. S. 343-344.

612 F.2d 906, affirmed.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BRENNAN, WHITE, BLACKMUN, ad POWELL, JJ., joined. STEWART, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which MARSHALL and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 450 U. S. 344.

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