Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle

Posted: January 12, 2016 by beguide in case summaries, Criminal Procedure, Fantasy Supreme Court League, Politics
Tags: ,

WHAT HAPPENED?

Defendant was charged in U.S. Federal Court with trafficking weapons and ammunition.   Shortly afterward, he faced charged in Puerto Rico based on the same set of facts.   Defendant moved to have his charges dropped based on the Double Jeopardy clause, and the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico granted Defendant’s motion dismissing the charges.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT?

Under the 5th Amendment, U.S. citizens enjoy protections under the Double Jeopardy Clause, which prevents someone from facing subsequent criminal prosecutions for the same action.  This rule has its caveats though, and one of those includes the fact that Double Jeopardy only applies to individual sovereigns, meaning that different States, or the State and Federal government, may bring subsequent criminal charges in their own jurisdiction.  The issue therefore becomes whether or not Puerto Rico is a separate sovereign than the Federal Government, which feels like a question we should have had an answer to before January 2016.

WHAT IS THE RULING?

This case is not yet decided.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS DECISION?

You could take this case in one of two ways.  On a smaller scale, the Supreme Court has already ruled in Puerto Rico v. Castro Garcia that Double Jeopardy does not bar retrial for Puerto Rico, so the Court could rely on precedent and simply carve out a specific rule only in the context of the Double Jeopardy doctrine and leave the decision regarding Puerto Rico’s sovereignty for another day.  If you are prone to hyperbole, this case could single-handedly appoint Puerto Rico as the 51st State, thus finding new ways for people to hate the Supreme Court.

ROOT FOR PUERTO RICO IF:

You enjoy deft issue-dodging and ignoring the elephant in the room.  You also think that this way over the Supreme Court’s head.

ROOT FOR SANCHEZ-VITAL IF:

You enjoy the maxim(s) “Better late than never” and “If you want something done you have to do it yourself”.  You also like fiery dissents.

 

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