Monge v. California

RESPONDENT: California
LOCATION: Sacramento County Police Department

DOCKET NO.: 97-6146
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)

CITATION: 524 US 721 (1998)
ARGUED: Apr 28, 1998
DECIDED: Jun 26, 1998

Clifford Gardner - Argued the cause for the petitioner
David F. Glassman - Argued the cause for the respondent
Matthew D. Roberts - On behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the respondent

Facts of the case

Angel Jaime Monge was convicted on three counts of violating California's drug laws, all felonies. Under California's "three-strikes" law a convicted felon with one prior felony conviction will have his prison term doubled. The state sought to have Monge's sentence enhanced based on a previous assault conviction and the resulting prison term. Subsequently the California trial court doubled his sentence and added a one-year enhancement for the prior prison term. On appeal, the California Court of Appeal ruled that the evidence was insufficient to trigger the sentence enhancement because the prior conviction allegations were not proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Moreover, a retrial to substantiate the allegations would violate the Double Jeopardy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The California Supreme Court reversed the double jeopardy ruling, holding that the Double Jeopardy Clause, though applicable in the capital sentencing context, does not extend to noncapital sentencing proceedings.


Does the Double Jeopardy Clause preclude retrial on a prior conviction allegation in noncapital sentencing proceedings?

Media for Monge v. California

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 28, 1998 in Monge v. California

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in Number 97-6146, Angel Monge v. California.

Spectators are admonished do not talk until you get out of the Courtroom.

The Court remains in session.

Mr. Gardner.

Clifford Gardner:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

If the judge in this case, or the jury, had found sufficient evidence to sustain the charged allegation, and the State court of appeal had affirmed that finding, that judgment as to my client would have been final.

I could not go into State court, empanel a new fact-finder, and try it again.

This case arises, or presents the flip side of the question.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Could you in other States, or is that a peculiarity under California law, or is this just a rule of finality that prevails, you think, in most jurisdictions?

You just... no way to reopen it?

Clifford Gardner:

My guess is that it's a rule of finality.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Newly discovered evidence, can't you--

Clifford Gardner:

Well, there could be a collateral attack, certainly, but I could not go in in the absence of some kind of new evidence.

The case would be final on direct appeal as to my client.

William H. Rehnquist:

--But any number of collateral attacks might be possible.

Clifford Gardner:


There's a presence of collateral attacks, new evidence if there was suppressed evidence, but this case presents the flip side of the factual scenario I started with, where there's been a finding of insufficient evidence, and the question is, finding by the appellate court, does that finding have any finality?

The question in this case is, does double jeopardy prevent the State from going in and relitigating the case.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Well, does California have... in your first hypothetical, assuming you lose and you find there was something wrong, there was not really a prior conviction, there's no motion to modify the sentence?

After the court has affirmed the conviction, the man has served for a year, and all of a sudden we find out that the three strikes isn't right, he can't go into the superior court in the State of California and ask for... to modify the sentence?

Clifford Gardner:

He could seek a writ of habeas corpus, or if the trial court still had jurisdiction, perhaps.

There are collateral attacks that could be made on that sentence, absolutely.

William H. Rehnquist:

And of course the State can't collaterally attack the sentence.

The State is bound by what happens on direct review.

Clifford Gardner:

There is... under the Double Jeopardy Clause the State has no right to collaterally attack or direct attack the judgment of acquittal.

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, but the State, there's simply no proceeding available.

If, say, the jury acquits your client there's no proceeding available whereby the State could appeal and say, probably because of double jeopardy, that this was a wrong result.

Clifford Gardner:

I think that's right, because of the Double Jeopardy Clause there is no right to appeal a jury's finding, or a jury verdict of acquittal.

What the question really gets at in this situation is the tension I think that the Court addressed in Burks v. United States, the possible distinction between a judgment of acquittal by an appellate court and a judgment of acquittal by a jury.

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, of course, it's not just a judgment... you're saying that a judgment of acquittal is the same thing as a sentencing determination.