Albernaz v. United States – Case Brief Summary (U.S. Supreme Court)

In Albernaz v. United States, 450 U.S. 333 (1981), the Supreme Court considered whether sentences for conspiracy to import marijuana and conspiracy to distribute marijuana were permitted under the required evidence test. Id. at 335.

Petitioners received consecutive sentences under each statutory provision, with the total sentence exceeding the maximum that could have been imposed under either conspiracy to import or conspiracy to distribute. Id.

As an initial matter, the Court reviewed the Blockburger test, labeling it a "rule of statutory construction . . . to be used to determine whether Congress has in a given situation provided that two statutory offenses may be punished cumulatively." Id. at 337 (internal quotations omitted). The Court explained:

Thus, the question of what punishments are constitutionally permissible is not different from the question of what punishments the Legislative Branch intended to be imposed. Where Congress intended, as it did here, to impose multiple punishments, imposition of such sentences does not violate the Constitution. Id. at 344.

The Court then proceeded to affirm the sentences of the petitioners, determining that the required evidence test was superceded by the fact that "Congress intended to permit the imposition of consecutive sentences for violations of § 846 and § 963." Id. at 343.