United States v. Dixon Case Brief

Why is the case important?

This case arises from the consolidation of two cases which both deal with the Double Jeopardy clause.

Facts of the case

“Alvin J. Dixon was arrested on second-degree murder charges and released on bond with an order not to commit any criminal offense. Violation of the order would result in prosecution for contempt of court. While awaiting trial, Dixon was arrested for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. The Superior Court of the District of Columbia found Dixon guilty of contempt. Dixon moved to dismiss a subsequent indictment for cocaine possession, arguing that it violated the Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy. The Superior Court granted the motion.Michael Foster’s wife obtained a civil protection order requiring that he not “molest, assault, or in any manner threaten or physically abuse” her, or he would face prosecution for contempt of court. Foster’s wife later moved to have him held in contempt for threatening her. Foster was found guilty of contempt on two occasions, but acquitted on three others. Foster was later indicted on several counts of assault arising out of those same threats. He moved to have the charges dismissed arguing that it violated double jeopardy. The trial court denied the motion.The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit consolidated the two cases, holding that the subsequent prosecutions were barred by Grady v. Corbin , which held that subsequent prosecutions violate the double jeopardy clause if the two prosecutions require proof of the same “essential element.””


This case questions whether a criminal can be later charged in contempt for committing the same crime of which he is already being prosecuted.


“Dixon’s secondary indictment was dismissed because it was found that it was double jeopardy

  • however, Foster was still indicted on three of four counts because double jeopardy did not apply to subsequent greater offenses.”


    The Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. The Court concluded that where the two offenses for which defendants were punished or tried could not survive the same-elements test, the double jeopardy bar applied. The same-elements test inquired whether each offense contained an element not contained in the other. If not, they were the same offense and double jeopardy barred additional punishment and successive prosecution. The Court overruled the same-conduct test. Because defendants’ subsequent offenses did not include any element not contained in their previous contempt offenses, subsequent prosecutions violated the double jeopardy clause . The remaining counts were not barred under the same-elements test because the crimes were different offenses.

    • Case Brief: 1993
    • Petitioner: United States
    • Respondent: Alvin J. Dixon and Michael Foster
    • Decided by: Case pending

    Citation: 509 US 688 (1993)
    Argued: Dec 2, 1992
    Decided: Jun 28, 1993
    Granted Apr 27, 1992