United States v. Jose Reyes-Correa (1st Cir. August 2020)

The Federal Docket

September 18, 2020

Double Jeopardy – The double jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution bars prosecution of federal offenses that share the same factual basis as a defendant’s prior conviction under Puerto Rican law.

Jose Reyes-Correa pleaded guilty in a Puerto Rico court under Article 406 of Puerto Rico Controlled Substance Act which criminalizes attempt and conspiracy to commit drug crimes specified in the Act.  About 16 months later, Reyes-Correa was indicted U.S District Court for the District of Puerto Rico on 5 federal drug-related offenses under 21 U.S.C. § 846, including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute. The federal indictment and Reyes-Correa’s prior conviction shared the same factual basis.

On appeal, the Court reviewed de novo Reyes-Correa’s challenge that he made a prima facie case that the federal drug charge 21 U.S.C. § 846 was the same offense as Article 406 and that the government failed to provide evidence to rebut it.  The Court noted that the U.S. Supreme Court “recently held that the Puerto Rico government and the United States federal government are not separate sovereigns for double jeopardy purposes” and further held that the double jeopardy clause barred the federal indictment. The Court explained that both Article 406 and 21 USC 846 covered drug conspiracy offenses and that the government failed to produce evidence of Reyes-Correa’s involvement in the conspiracy after he pleaded guilty under Article 406.  The Court added that neither the characterization of the offense in the Article 406 judgement or the information in the federal record sufficiently supported the government’s challenge that the offenses contained factual distinctions to overturn the bar on Double Jeopardy.  The Court reversed the district court’s denial of the motion to dismiss.

Appeal from the District of Puerto Rico

Opinion by Barron, joined by Torruella and Dyk

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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