Witte v. United States, 515 U.S. 389 (1995)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the fifth circuit

No. 94-6187. Argued April 17, 1995—Decided June 14, 1995

After petitioner Witte pleaded guilty to a federal marijuana charge, a presentence report calculated the base offense level under the United States Sentencing Guidelines by aggregating the total quantity of drugs involved not only in Witte's offense of conviction but also in uncharged criminal conduct in which he had engaged with several co-conspirators. The resulting sentencing range was higher than it would have been if only the drugs involved in his conviction had been considered, but it still fell within the scope of the legislatively authorized penalty. The District Court accepted the report's aggregation in sentencing Witte, concluding that the other offenses were part of a continuing conspiracy that should be taken into account under the Guidelines as "relevant conduct," United States Sentencing Commission, Guidelines Manual 1B1.3. When Witte was subsequently indicted for conspiring and attempting to import cocaine, he moved to dismiss the charges, arguing that he had already been punished for the offenses because that cocaine had been considered as "relevant conduct" at his marijuana sentencing. The court dismissed the indictment on grounds that punishment for the cocaine offenses would violate the Double Jeopardy Clause's prohibition against multiple punishments, but the Court of Appeals reversed. Relying on this Court's decision in Williams v. Oklahoma, 358 U. S. 576 (1959), it held that the use of relevant conduct to increase the punishment for a charged offense does not punish the offender for the relevant conduct.

Held: Because consideration of relevant conduct in determining a defendant's sentence within the legislatively authorized punishment range does not constitute punishment for that conduct within the meaning of the Double Jeopardy Clause, Witte's prosecution on cocaine charges does not violate the prohibition against multiple punishments. Pp. 395-406. (a) This Court's precedents make clear that a defendant in Witte's situation is only punished, for double jeopardy purposes, for the offense of conviction. Traditionally, a sentencing judge may conduct a broad inquiry, largely unlimited either as to the kind of information he may consider or the source from which it may come. Against this background of sentencing history, the Court, in Williams, supra, specifically rejected the claim that double jeopardy principles bar a later prosecu-


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