United States v. Watts, 519 U.S. 148, 8 (1997) (per curiam)

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Cite as: 519 U. S. 148 (1997)

Per Curiam

in imposing a sentence on marijuana charges that was within the statutory range, without precluding the defendant's subsequent prosecution for the cocaine offense. We concluded that "consideration of information about the defendant's character and conduct at sentencing does not result in 'punishment' for any offense other than the one of which the defendant was convicted." Id., at 401. Rather, the defendant is "punished only for the fact that the present offense was carried out in a manner that warrants increased punishment . . . ." Id., at 403; see also Nichols, 511 U. S., at 747.

The Court of Appeals likewise misunderstood the preclusive effect of an acquittal, when it asserted that a jury " 'reject[s]' " some facts when it returns a general verdict of not guilty. Putra, 78 F. 3d, at 1389 (quoting Brady, supra, at 851). The Court of Appeals failed to appreciate the significance of the different standards of proof that govern at trial and sentencing. We have explained that "acquittal on criminal charges does not prove that the defendant is innocent; it merely proves the existence of a reasonable doubt as to his guilt." United States v. One Assortment of 89 Firearms, 465 U. S. 354, 361 (1984). As then-Chief Judge Wallace pointed out in his dissent in Putra, it is impossible to know exactly why a jury found a defendant not guilty on a certain charge.

"[A]n acquittal is not a finding of any fact. An acquittal can only be an acknowledgment that the government failed to prove an essential element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Without specific jury findings, no one can logically or realistically draw any factual finding inferences . . . ." 78 F. 3d, at 1394.

Thus, contrary to the Court of Appeals' assertion in Brady, supra, at 851, the jury cannot be said to have "necessarily rejected" any facts when it returns a general verdict of not guilty.


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