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ILLINOIS v. VITALE

decided: June 19, 1980.

ILLINOIS
v.
VITALE



CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS.

White, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Burger, C. J., and Blackmun, Powell, and Rehnquist, JJ., joined. Stevens, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Brennan, Stewart, and Marshall, JJ., joined, post, p. 421.

Author: White

[ 447 U.S. Page 411]

 MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question in this case is whether the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits the State of Illinois (State) from prosecuting for involuntary manslaughter the driver of an automobile involved in a fatal accident, who previously has been convicted for failing to reduce speed to avoid the collision.

I

On November 24, 1974, an automobile driven by respondent John Vitale, a juvenile, struck two small children. One of the children died almost immediately; the other died the following day. A police officer at the scene of the accident issued a traffic citation charging Vitale with failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident in violation of § 11-601 (a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code. Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 95 1/2, § 11-601 (a) (1979). This statute provides in part that "[speed] must be

[ 447 U.S. Page 412]

     decreased as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person or vehicle on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care."*fn1

On December 23, 1974, Vitale appeared in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill., and entered a plea of not guilty to the charge of failing to reduce speed.*fn2 After a trial without a jury, Vitale was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of $15.*fn3

On the following day, December 24, 1974, a petition for adjudication of wardship was filed in the juvenile division of

[ 447 U.S. Page 413]

     the Circuit Court of Cook County, charging Vitale with two counts of involuntary manslaughter.*fn4 The petition, which was signed by the police officer who issued the traffic citation, alleged that Vitale "without lawful justification while recklessly driving a motor vehicle caused the death of" the two children killed in the November 20, 1974, accident. App. 2-4.

Vitale's counsel filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds, among others, that the manslaughter prosecution was "violative of statutory and/or constitutional double jeopardy," id., at 7, because of Vitale's previous conviction for failing to reduce speed to avoid the accident. The juvenile court found it unnecessary to reach a constitutional question because it held that the manslaughter prosecution was barred by Illinois statutes requiring, with certain nonpertinent exceptions, that all offenses based on the same conduct be prosecuted in a single prosecution. Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 38, §§ 3-3 and 3-4 (b)(1) (1979).*fn5 The juvenile court dismissed the petition for

[ 447 U.S. Page 414]

     adjudication of wardship and the State appealed. The Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, In re Vitale, 44 Ill. App. 3d 1030, 358 N. E. 2d 1288 (1976), affirmed the holding that the manslaughter prosecution was barred by the state compulsory joinder statutes. Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 38, §§ 3-3 and 3-4 (b)(1) (1979).

The Supreme Court of Illinois, with two justices dissenting, affirmed on other grounds. In re Vitale, 71 Ill. 2d 229, 375 N. E. 2d 87 (1978). The court did not reach the state statutory question for it found "a more compelling reason why respondent cannot be prosecuted for the offense of involuntary manslaughter": the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, as applied to the States through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. After analyzing the elements of each offense, the court held that because "the lesser offense, failing to reduce speed, requires no proof beyond that which is necessary for conviction of the greater, involuntary manslaughter, . . . for purposes of the double jeopardy clause, the greater offense is by definition the 'same' as the lesser offense included within it." Id., at 239, 375 N. E. 2d, at 91. Thus the court concluded that the manslaughter

[ 447 U.S. Page 415]

     prosecution was barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause.

The dissenting justices argued that the manslaughter prosecution was not barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause because the homicide charge could be proved by showing one or more reckless acts other than the failure to reduce speed. Id., at 242, 251-253, 375 N. E. 2d, at 93, 96-97 (Underwood, J., joined by Ryan, J., dissenting).

On November 27, 1978, we granted the State's petition for certiorari, vacated the judgment, and remanded the case to the Supreme Court of Illinois to consider whether its judgment was based upon federal or state constitutional grounds. 439 U.S. 974 (1978). After the Supreme Court of Illinois, on remand, certified that its judgment was based upon federal constitutional grounds, we again granted a writ of certiorari. 444 U.S. 823 (1979).

II

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment provides that no person shall "be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." This constitutional guarantee is applicable to the States through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Benton v. Maryland, 395 U.S. 784 (1969), and it applies not only in traditional criminal proceedings but also in the kind of juvenile proceedings Vitale faced. Breed v. Jones, 421 U.S. 519 (1975).

The constitutional prohibition of double jeopardy has been held to consist of three separate guarantees: (1) "It protects against a second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal. [(2) It] protects against a second prosecution for the same offense after conviction. [(3)] And it protects against multiple punishments for the same offense." North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U.S. 711, 717 (1969) (footnotes omitted). Because Vitale asserts that his former conviction for failing to reduce speed bars his manslaughter prosecution, we are concerned with only the second of these three guarantees in the instant case. The sole question before us is whether the

[ 447 U.S. Page 416]

     offense of failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident is the "same offense" for double jeopardy purposes as the ...


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