Skip to main content


SCOTUS Upholds Violation of Double Jeopardy by Separate Sovereigns

With a 7-2 ruling, the United States Supreme Court upheld the dual-sovereignty doctrine in Gamble v. United States (2019). Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Neil Gorsuch each filed dissenting opinions.

Under the dual sovereignty doctrine, "separate sovereigns" can prosecute a person for the exact same instance of the exact same offense.

In this case, the accused pleaded guilty to a crime in state court. Then the federal government went after him for the same thing and he received additional years of incarceration as punishment.

Isn't this an obvious violation of the prohibition on double jeopardy, one might reasonably ask? With this most recent ruling on the subject, the Supreme Court continues to maintain that it does not. 

The dual sovereignty doctrine is one of the creative reinterpretations of the Constitution that undermines the protection of jury nullification. If one jury nullifies, the government can do a little jury shopping to find one that will convict simply by prosecution by a "different" "sovereign". 

Learn more about this case in our online case file on Gamble v. United States (2019).