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Albernaz v. United States

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Albernaz appealed his sentencing for violating two federal statutes on the grounds that his combined sentence violated the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A defendant can be sentenced twice for an action if the action violates both a federal statute restricting the importation of marijuana and the federal statute restricting the distribution of marijuana.

    Facts.

    Albernaz, the defendant, made an agreement to import and distribute marijuana then was subsequently charged with violating two federal statutes: the importation of marijuana and the distribution of marijuana. Albernaz was sentenced to two sequential sentences for violating the federal statutes. The sentence that Albernaz was sentenced to for the combination of violating both statutes was longer than the maximum sentence Albernaz would have been subject to if he violated either of the individual statutes. Albernaz appealed on the grounds that his sentencing violated the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment. The appellate court affirmed the decision of the trial court and the Supreme Court granted certiorari.

    Issue.

    Whether or not a defendant can be sentenced twice for an action if the action violates both a federal statute restricting the importation of marijuana and the federal statute restricting the distribution of marijuana?

    Held.

    Yes. The decision of the court of appeals is affirmed.

    Discussion.

    Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299 (1932) established the precedent for the application of two criminal statutes to one trial. For two criminal statutes to be tried in one case without violating the double jeopardy clause of Fifth Amendment, each statute that is violated has to have an element that the other statute does not. The statutes in this case meet this criteria, as one statute addresses the importation of marijuana and the other statute addresses the distribution of marijuana. Similarly, Albernaz’s sentencing does not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause because Congress intended to impose more than one sentence for each individual violation.


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