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The double jeopardy clause protects against a second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal. It protects against a second prosecution for the same offense after conviction. And it protects against multiple punishments for the same offense. Where consecutive sentences are imposed at a single criminal trial, the role of the constitutional guarantee is limited to assuring that the court does not exceed its legislative authorization by imposing multiple punishments for the same offense. Where successive prosecutions are at stake, the guarantee serves a constitutional policy of finality for the defendant's benefit. That policy protects the accused from attempts to relitigate the facts underlying a prior acquittal, and from attempts to secure additional punishment after a prior conviction and sentence.
Upon trial in an Ohio state court in Wickliffe, Ohio, where Nathaniel Brown was arrested nine days after he had stolen an automobile, Brown pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of joyriding--taking or operating a car without the owner's consent--the joyriding charge having been based on Brown’s driving of the auto on the last day of his nine-day joyride. Thereafter, Brown pleaded guilty in a state court in Cuyahoga County to a felony auto theft charge based on his original taking of the auto, the trial court rejecting the defendant's double jeopardy objections. The Court of Appeals of Ohio affirmed, holding that while joyriding was a lesser included offense of auto theft since every element of the crime of joyriding was also an element of the crime of auto theft (the latter having the additional element of intent to permanently deprive the vehicle owner of possession), nevertheless the two prosecutions were based on two separate acts and thus the double jeopardy clause did not bar the second prosecution. The Supreme Court of Ohio denied leave to appeal.
Did the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment bar prosecution and punishment for the crime of stealing an automobile following prosecution and punishment for the lesser included offense of operating the same vehicle without the owner's consent?
The court reversed the decision of the appellate court. The court held that auto theft and joyriding were a greater and lesser included offense under Ohio law, and constituted the same offense for purposes of the double jeopardy clause, U.S. Const. amend. V. The court held that the violations arose out of the same offense because the required proof of the same set of facts, and the successive prosecution was prohibited. The court held that the prosecution could not allege two separate offenses under applicable Ohio law simply because the auto theft and joyriding took place over a nine day period.