Pending Supreme Court Case Could Help Our Clients
Valiente Law is a Miami firm. We typically represent clients at the trial court level in state and federal court. So it is a bit unusual for us to be anxiously awaiting the outcome of an appellate court case we have nothing to do with, but that is exactly what is going on. Right now, there is a criminal law case pending at the United States Supreme Court that may have a big impact on our clients. Depending out how the case is decided, it could be a boon to our clients who are facing weapons charges, drug charges, or any other charges that may be prosecuted in both state and federal court.
Gamble v. United States
In 2008, Terance Gamble was convicted in Alabama state court of second-degree robbery. He served time for this felony, and like all felons, lost his right to possess a firearm.
Fast forward to 2015. Gamble is out of prison, and he gets pulled over by the cops for a traffic violation. A search of his car reveals marijuana, a digital scale, and a 9-millimeter pistol. The state of Alabama charged Gamble with being a felon in possession of a weapon, and Gamble pleaded guilty, was convicted, and sentenced to a year in prison.
While the state of Alabama’s case against Gamble was pending, the feds decided to charge Gamble with the exact same crime — felon in possession of a firearm. Gamble and his attorney objected to this. They argued that under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution — which prohibits the government from trying someone twice for the same crime — the federal government should not be allowed to bring a charge against Gamble that was identical to the one already brought by the state of Alabama.
The lower federal courts basically said, “No way. What we are doing is totally okay.” Gamble appealed this decision, but also pleaded guilty to the federal charge, was convicted, and received a 46-month sentence, to be served concurrently with the state sentence. This means he will serve 32 more months in prison than he would have if the only case brought against him was the case by the state of Alabama.
Gamble is in prison, but he still thinks what happened to him was wrong. He has continued to appeal the second charge that was brought against him, and his case has gone all the way up to the United States Supreme Court, the highest court in the country. We are eager to hear what the Supreme Court Justices think about it.
What Could Happen
This case is a big deal because there are many, many people out there who, like Gamble, are being charged twice for the same crime, even though the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution explicitly prohibits “double jeopardy.”
If the Supreme Court decides that the federal government and the state government should not be able to tag-team people like Gamble, it could really help people who have allegedly committed a crime that is both a state law crime and a federal crime.
It is difficult to defend yourself in state court and federal court at the same time, or even in back to back trials. And it gives the government an unfair advantage when it can have a do-over in another court when it fails to get a conviction in one court.
Since our firm represents defendants in both state court and federal court, we are keeping a close eye on this case.