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North Carolina v. Pearce

Citation. 395 U.S. 711, 89 S. Ct. 2072, 23 L. Ed. 2d 656, 1969 U.S.
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Brief Fact Summary.

The defendants, Clifton Pearce (“Mr. Pearce”) and William Rice (“Mr. Rice”) (collectively referred to as the “defendants”), successfully overturned initial convictions only to be reconvicted with longer sentences without credit for time served.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Credit for time served must be applied under the double jeopardy provision of the United States Constitution (“Constitution”), and due process prohibits the imposition of a harsher sentence on a retrial.


Two cases were consolidated for this decision.
Mr. Pearce was convicted of assault with intent to rape and given a prison term of 12-15 years. He successfully overturned the decision, but on retrial he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years less the seven years served.

Mr. Rice was convicted of four counts of second degree burglary, and he received a ten-year prison term. He also had three counts set aside, only to be reconvicted. He received a 25-year term from the retrial.


Whether the double jeopardy provision of the United States Constitution (“Constitution”) mandates the judge imposing the second sentence to give credit for time served?

Whether a judge can impose a more severe sentence upon reconviction?


The double jeopardy provision of the Constitution does mandate that credit for time served be applied to a reconviction sentence.

Due process dictates that a judge cannot impose a more severe sentence upon reconviction. The fact that a defendant was successful in overturning the first conviction cannot be a motivating factor for a judge to impose a harsher sentence. Also, the defendants may be apprehensive in appealing a decision if they fear retaliation from a judge.


Justice Hugo Black (“J. Black”) agrees with the majority regarding the double jeopardy application, and he agrees that longer sentences imposed by a vindictive judge should not be allowed. But he thought that in regards to Mr. Pearce there was no evidence of bad intentions by the sentencing judge and therefore believed that due process was not applicable.
Concurrence. Justice Byron White (“J. White”) noted that one exception to the majority’s ruling would be to allow the imposition of a harsher sentence if new evidence was produced prior to the retrial that would call for a harsher sentence.


The double jeopardy provision and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution would not apply to longer sentencing, but a defendant is protected under due process.

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