Conditions of Imposing a Harsher Sentence After a Trial or Retrial Than the Initial Sentence

In Alabama v. Smith, 490 U.S. 794, 104 L. Ed. 2d 865, 109 S. Ct. 2201 (1989) the Supreme Court again considered the situation where a harsher sentence was imposed after a trial and the initial sentence was the product of a guilty plea. With Smith, the Supreme Court overruled its prior decision in Rice and qualified the Pearce decision, stating: While the Pearce opinion appeared on its face to announce a rule of sweeping dimension, our subsequent cases have made clear that its presumption of vindictiveness "does not apply in every case where a convicted defendant receives a higher sentence on retrial." As the court explained in Texas v. McCullough, "the evil the Pearce Court sought to prevent" was not the imposition of "enlarged sentences after a new trial" but "vindictiveness of a sentencing judge." Because the Pearce presumption "may operate in the absence of any proof of an improper motive and thus .. . block a legitimate response to criminal conduct," we have limited its application, like that of "other 'judicially created means of effectuating the rights secured by the Constitution,'" to circumstances "where its 'objectives are thought most efficaciously served.'" Such circumstances are those in which there is a "reasonable likelihood," that the increase in sentence is the product of actual vindictiveness on the part of the sentencing authority. Where there is no such reasonable likelihood, the burden remains upon the defendant to prove actual vindictiveness.Smith, 490 U.S. at 799 The Supreme Court in Smith reasoned that "even when the same judge imposes both sentences, the relevant sentencing information available to the judge after the plea will usually be considerably less than that available after a trial." Id. at 801. Therefore, a greater sentence imposed after trial than imposed after a guilty plea "is not more likely than not attributable to" judicial vindictiveness, but rather due to the greater relevant sentencing information available to the judge after a trial. Id. The Supreme Court also noted "some important developments in the constitutional law of guilty pleas" since the Rice decision, including that "a guilty plea may justify leniency," that a prosecutor may offer to recommend a more lenient sentence or reduction in charges during the plea negotiation process, and that a prosecutor may threaten a defendant with increased charges if he or she does not enter a plea. Smith, 490 U.S. at 802-803.