Is There a Double Jeopardy Bar for a Sentencing Court to Consider An Offence of Which a Defendant Has Been Acquitted ?
In United States v. Watts (519 US 148, 156-158), the Court held that there is no Federal due process or double jeopardy bar for a sentencing court to consider an offense of which a defendant has been acquitted.
As to the due process claim, the Court held that the Due Process Clause is complied with when a sentencing court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that an offense was committed.
This standard of proof is applicable to all noncapital sentencing proceedings unless "exceptional circumstances" exist (supra, at 157), in which situation the criminal offense must be proven by clear and convincing evidence.
The Court then reasoned that since the burden of proof at sentencing differs from the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt applicable at a criminal trial, no Federal due process rights are impinged.
The Court also pointed out that an acquittal does not mean that a defendant is innocent, but merely that there is reasonable doubt as to defendant's guilt (supra, at 155).
As to the Federal double jeopardy issue, the Watts Court held that since sentencing is for the acts constituting crimes of which the defendant has been convicted and not for the acts of the acquitted crime (the sentence only being enhanced), there was thus no Federal double jeopardy violation by considering an offense of which defendant was acquitted.