Albernaz v. United States

PETITIONER: Albernaz et al.
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Dames & Moore

DOCKET NO.: 79-1709
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 450 US 333 (1981)
ARGUED: Jan 19, 1981
DECIDED: Mar 09, 1981

Judith H. Mizner - for petitioners
Mark Irving Levy - for respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Albernaz v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 19, 1981 in Albernaz v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 09, 1981 in Albernaz v. United States

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in Albernaz against the United States will be announced by Justice Rehnquist.

William H. Rehnquist:

This case is here on petition for writ of certiorari to the Untied States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The petitioners in this case entered into a single conspiracy that is an agreement among themselves which envisioned both the importation and the distribution of marijuana.

Their conspiracy was foiled by law enforcement officers and they were subsequently charged and convicted on a two-count indictment of conspiracy to import marijuana in violation of one statute in conspiracy to distribute marijuana in violation of another.

They received consecutive sentences for each count.

Petitioners don't contend that their conspiracy to import and distribute marijuana did not violate both of these statutes.

Instead they argue that Congress did not intend to authorize multiple punishments for violations of these two statutes in a case involving only a single agreement or conspiracy.

They also argued that even if Congress intended consecutive sentences to be imposed, imposition of such of a punishment violates the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

We hold today that Congress did intend to impose multiple punishments for violation of these two conspiracy statutes even in a case involving only a single agreement or conspiracy.

The provisions of the statute are unambiguous on their face and each authorizes punishment for a violation of its terms.

Moreover we have historically applied the rule of statutory construction announced in the well-known Blockburger case to determine congressional intent in this area.

The statutory provisions here clearly satisfy that rule.

Finally, we hold that imposition of consecutive sentences in this situation does not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment where consecutive sentences are imposed to the single criminal trial, the role of a constitutional guarantee and limiting is limited to assuring that the Court does not exceed it's legislative authorization by imposition of multiple punishment for the same offenses.

The question of what punishments are constitutionally permissible is not different from the question of what punishment the legislative branch intended to impose.

Where Congress intended as it did here to impose multiple punishment imposition of such sentence does not violate the constitution.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is accordingly affirmed.

Justice Stewart has filed an opinion concurring in the result in this case in which Justice Marshall and Justice Stevens joined.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Justice Rehnquist.