Witte v. United States

RESPONDENT:United States
LOCATION:South Boston Allied War Veterans Council

DOCKET NO.: 94-6187
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 515 US 389 (1995)
ARGUED: Apr 17, 1995
DECIDED: Jun 14, 1995

Edward C. DuMont – on behalf of the Respondent
H. Michael Sokolow – on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Witte v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – April 17, 1995 in Witte v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 14, 1995 in Witte v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

The second case is number 94-6187, Witte against the United States.

In February, 1992, the petitioner here Steven Witte pleaded guilty to a federal marijuana charge.

At sentencing, the District Court took into account under the guidelines, the total quantity of drugs involved not only in Witte’s offensive conviction, but also of the narcotics involved in certain other uncharged criminal conduct arising out of the same conspiracy including a plan to import a quantity of cocaine from Central America.

The Witte was later indicted for conspiring and attempting to import the same cocaine which was considered in the sentencing of the marijuana offenses.

The District Court dismissed the charges on grounds that punishment for the cocaine offenses would violate the Double Jeopardy’s Clause.

The Court of Appeals for Fifth Circuit reversed.

We granted certiorari and we affirm the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Traditionally, a sentencing judge can consider a broad range of inquiry into the defendant’s background, past criminal behavior and arriving at an appropriate punishment.

But the consideration of the uncharged conduct in deciding on a sentence within the statutorily authorized punishment range doesn’t constitute punishment for that conduct for double jeopardy purposes.

That is, a defendant in that situation is only punished for the offenses of which he was convicted.

In a case decided in 1959 called Williams against Oklahoma, we specifically rejected the claim that the double jeopardy principles bar a later prosecution or punishment for criminal activity where that activity has been considered at sentencing for a separate crime.

Now the reason that this case and other cases applies of equal force here.

Justice Kennedy and I have joined all but Part III of Justice O’Connors opinion.

Justice Stevens has joined only Part III.

Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion.