Bordenkircher v. Hayes

Supreme Court of the United States

434 U.S. 357 (1978)

The of the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause to the U.S. Constitution is not violated when a prosecutor exercises discretion in whether to prosecute and what charge to bring before a grand jury so long as the decision is not intentionally based on race, religion, or any other unjustifiable classification.

Relevant Facts

Paul Lewis Hayes (the defendant) was indicted for uttering a forged instrument valued at $88. The charge is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment. Subsequently, the defendant and his attorney met with the prosecutor to discuss a possible plea deal. The prosecutor offered a reduced sentence of 5 years imprisonment in exchange for a guilty plea to the charge. Additionally, the prosecutor stated that doing so would “save the court the inconvenience and necessity of a trial.” If the defendant did not accept the deal, the prosecutor stated that he would the grand jury and re-indict Hayes as a habitual offender, which could result in a life imprisonment under the state’s Habitual Criminal Act, due to the defendant’s two previous felony convictions. The defendant chose not to take the guilty plea. Subsequently, the defendant was found guilty of uttering a forged instrument and sentenced to life imprisonment. The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the defendant’s sentence. While in prison, the defendant filed a federal writ of habeas corpus. The court of appeals held that the prosecutor’s conduct during the plea negotiations violated the principles which “protected defendants from the vindictive exercise of a prosecutor’s discretion.” Subsequently, the court ordered the defendant’s sentence be reduced to a lawful sentence imposed only for the uttering crime. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to review.

Issue

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Holding & Reasoning

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Concurrence

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Dissent

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Last updated:

December 12, 2020

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Procedural History

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Citations

434 U.S. 357 (1978)