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United States v. DiFrancesco, 449 U.S. 117 (1980)

United States v. DiFrancesco

No. 79-567

Argued October 6, 1980

Decided December 9, 1980

449 U.S. 117


The Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, 18 U.S.C. § 3576, grants the United States the right, under specified conditions, to appeal the sentence imposed upon a "dangerous special offender." Respondent was convicted of federal racketeering offenses at a trial in Federal District Court. He was sentenced as a dangerous special offender under 18 U.S.C. § 3575 to two 10-year prison terms, to be served concurrently with each other and with a 9-year sentence previously imposed on convictions at an unrelated federal trial. The United States sought review of the dangerous special offender sentences under § 3576, claiming that the District Court abused its discretion in imposing sentences that amounted to additional imprisonment of respondent for only one year, in the face of the findings the court made after the dangerous special offender hearing. The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal on double jeopardy grounds.

Held: Section 3576 does not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Pp. 449 U. S. 126-143.

(a) Section 3576 does not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause's guarantee against multiple trials. "[W]here a Government appeal presents no threat of successive prosecutions, the Double Jeopardy Clause is not offended." United States v. Martin Linen Supply Co., 430 U. S. 564, 430 U. S. 569-570. Accordingly, the Government's taking of a review of respondent's sentence does not, in itself, offend double jeopardy principles just because its success might deprive respondent of the benefit of a more lenient sentence. Neither the history of sentencing practices, nor the pertinent rulings of this Court, nor even considerations of double jeopardy policy support the proposition that a criminal sentence, once pronounced, is to be accorded constitutional finality similar to that which attaches to a jury's verdict of acquittal. The Double Jeopardy Clause does not provide the defendant with a right to know at any specific moment in time what the exact limit of his punishment will turn out to be. Pp. 449 U. S. 132-138.

(b) The increase of a sentence on review under § 3576 does not constitute multiple punishment in violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause. The argument that the defendant perceives the length of his sentence as

Page 449 U. S. 118

finally determined when he begins to serve it, and that the trial judge should be prohibited from thereafter increasing the sentence, has no force where, as in the dangerous special offender statute, Congress has specifically provided that the sentence is subject to appeal. Under such circumstances, there can be no expectation of finality in the original sentence. Pp. 449 U. S. 138-139.

(c) The conclusion that § 3576 violates neither the guarantee against multiple punishment nor the guarantee against multiple trials is consistent with those opinions in which this Court has upheld the constitutionality of two-stage criminal proceedings. Cf. Swisher v. Brady, 438 U. S. 204. Pp. 449 U. S. 139-141.

604 F.2d 769, reversed and remanded.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which WHITE, MARSHALL, and STEVENS,, JJ., joined, post, p. 449 U. S. 143. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 449 U. S. 152.

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