Illinois v. Vitale

LOCATION: Circuit Court of Hanover County

DOCKET NO.: 78-1845
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Illinois

CITATION: 447 US 410 (1980)
ARGUED: Jan 08, 1980
DECIDED: Jun 19, 1980

James S. Veldman - on behalf of the Petitioner
Lawrence G. Dirksen - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Illinois v. Vitale

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 08, 1980 (Part 2) in Illinois v. Vitale

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 08, 1980 (Part 1) in Illinois v. Vitale

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in 78-1845, Illinois v. Vitale.

Mr. Veldman, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

James S. Veldman:

Thank you very much, Your Honors.

Good morning.

My name is James S. Veldman, and I represent the people of the State of Illinois.

We are your petitioner here.

We are concerned in this case with the applicability or I might say our position being the complete lack of applicability to the facts in this case of the double jeopardy provisions of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

On November 20, 1974, John Vitale struck with his automobile and killed two young children.

On December 23, 1974, he was found guilty on a traffic ticket which was issued at the scene of the collision, charging him with failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.

On the following day December 24, 1974, Vitale was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter and because he was a minor at the time those charges took the form of a petition for adjudication of wardship.

The judge in the juvenile court branch of the Unified Circuit Court of Cook County finally dismissed the involuntary manslaughter charges out among other basis, on the basis of double jeopardy and the people have appealed up through the state court system and now come before Your Honors.

As Your Honors undoubtedly know, the Supreme Court of Illinois has certified that its decision was based squarely upon its interpretation of the Fifth Amendment double jeopardy clause.

As you also know, I am sure, there was a very strong dissent in this case and I rely on a great deal of the logic and thinking of that dissent in my argument here.

It is our position that these offenses are not the same offenses for double jeopardy purposes in that, one, they are not the same offense as defined under double jeopardy purposes and, secondly, that the traffic offense is not a lesser included offense of the offense of involuntary manslaughter.

It is absolutely clear, Your Honors, that a person may not be twice placed in jeopardy for the same offense.

What the clause protects is it prevents multiple prosecutions and/or punishments for the same offense.

And those are the critical words, as this Court well knows, the same offense.

The identity of the offense and not the act or series of acts involved is the crucial question presented in a double jeopardy case.

Blockburger v. United States, Ciucci v. Illinois.

Where one act or a series of acts in a violation of more than one statutory provision and where those violations are not the same offense as defined under Blockburger, that there is no prohibition about twice trying, convicting or punishing the defendant upon those charges, Blockburger as I have indicated, and Gavieres v. United States.

Potter Stewart:

My problem, Mr. Veldman, in this case is, as you might have anticipated would be the problem of one or more members of the Court, is that whatever we might independently think about it, the Supreme Court of Illinois through the opinion of the late Mr. Justice Dooley has told us that in Illinois this is a lesser included offense.

And to be sure, there was a very vigorous dissenting opinion, but that is the construction of the law of Illinois by the Illinois Supreme Court and we have no choice but what to accept it, don't we?

James S. Veldman:

Might I suggest to Your Honors that you do have a choice, and I suggest to you this.

In Brown v. Ohio, as I attempted to note in my second point in my reply brief, in Brown v. Ohio the question of whether the offense was a lesser included offense came before this Court more or less as a fait accompli.

Potter Stewart:

The Supreme Court of Ohio or the Court of Appeals of Ohio held that it was a lesser included offense.

James S. Veldman:


Potter Stewart:

And here the Supreme Court of Illinois has held that it was a lesser included offense.

James S. Veldman:

But I believe that the difference here is that it was not contested.

Potter Stewart:

There is a dissenting opinion that -- I used to have a law teacher who told the whole class that dissenting opinions were subversive literature.

James S. Veldman:

If that were --