Gamble v. United States: Dual-Sovereignty Doctrine is Upheld

On June 17, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Gamble v. United States, refused to overturn the longstanding dual-sovereignty doctrine, an exception to the Constitution’s double jeopardy clause, which allows a state to prosecute a defendant under state law even if the federal government has prosecuted the defendant for the same offense under federal law. The 7-2 ruling rejected a challenge to the dual-sovereignty doctrine by Terance Gamble, an Alabama man who was convicted and sentenced in state and federal prosecutions for the same offense – felon in possession of a firearm. Under both state and federal law, a felon may not possess a firearm.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion explaining “We have long held that a crime under one sovereign’s laws is not ‘the same offence’ as a crime under the laws of another sovereign.”

Gamble’s case drew considerable attention because of its potential impact on state prosecutions of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager convicted and sentenced in federal court to more than seven years in prison. In March, Paul Manafort was indicted on 16 felony charges in the state of New York. The charges in New York will ensure that he still faces prison time if convicted even if President Trump pardons him for the federal crimes. President Trump can grant pardons for federal crimes, but he has no authority to grant clemency for state and local crimes.