Multiple Prosecutions Cannot Arise From Single Act If Based On ‘Same Conduct’

1990

In Grady v. Corbin, the U.S. Supreme Court considers the case of a defendant who, while driving drunk, crossed a median and crashed into another car, killing a passenger. The defendant pleaded guilty to drunken driving and crossing the median. Soon after, the district attorney brought different charges – for reckless manslaughter, second-degree vehicular manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide. The Court rules that in addition to the “same elements” test outlined in the 1932 Blockburger case – which prohibits multiple crimes to be charged for a single act, if the crimes require proof of the same elements – the double jeopardy clause also prohibits multiple crimes arising out of a single act that require proof of the “same conduct.” Because proving the defendant in Grady guilty of homicide would require proving that he was guilty of driving drunk and of crossing the median, and because the defendant already had pleaded guilty to both of those charges, the second prosecution violates the double jeopardy clause.