United States v. Lanza, 260 U.S. 377; 43 S. Ct. 141; 7 L. Ed. 314 (1922)

United States v. Lanza, 260 U.S. 377; 43 S. Ct. 141; 7 L. Ed. 314 (1922)

Facts—The state of Washington passed a prohibition law before the passage of the National Prohibition Act. Lanza was charged in the federal court of Washington and in the supreme court of Whatcom County, Washington, for the violation of each of the respective acts. He was accused of making, selling, and transporting liquor and of having a still and material for the manufacture of liquor. He brought suit in the federal court to dismiss the suit of the United States on the grounds that he was placed in double jeopardy.

Question—Can the United States punish someone for an act for which the state has already punished him?


ReasonsC.J. Taft (9–0). We have two sovereignties, deriving power from different sources, capable of dealing with the same subject matter within the same territory. Each may, without interference from the other, enact laws determining what shall be an offense against its peace and dignity. In doing this, each is exercising its own sovereignty, not that of the other.

It follows that an act denounced as a crime by both national and state sovereignties is an offense against the peace and dignity of both and may be punished by each. The Fifth Amendment applies only to proceedings of the federal government, and the double jeopardy covered therein forbids a second prosecution under the authority of the federal government after a first trial for the same offense under the same authority. Here the same act was an offense against the state of Washington because of a violation of its laws and also an offense against the United States under the National Prohibition Act. The defendant thus committed two different offenses by the same act and a conviction by a court of Washington together with conviction in the federal court was not double jeopardy.

Note—Although often criticized, Lanza is still good law and reaffirmed in Abbate v. United States, 359 U.S. 187 (1959) and Bartkus v. Illinois, 359 U.S. 121 (1959), which maintains the “double-prosecution-is-not-double-jeopardy” rule. Again in Heath v. Alabama, 474 U.S. 82 (1985), the Court reinforced it.

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