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Name: People v. Halim
Case #: B271770
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 08/21/2017

Following federal convictions for misuse of visa and minimum wage violations, Fifth Amendment’s protection against double jeopardy did not bar state prosecution for human trafficking. Appellants Halim and Anwar were charged in federal court with harboring illegal aliens. Halim ultimately pleaded guilty to misuse of visas, and Anwar pleaded guilty to minimum wage violations. The Los Angeles County District Attorney subsequently prosecuted appellants for state human trafficking violations. After the trial court denied appellants’ motion to dismiss the grand jury indictment, Halim pleaded guilty to human trafficking and Anwar pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact. They appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in denying their motions to dismiss because they were entitled to Fifth Amendment double jeopardy protection, which should have barred subsequent state prosecution. Held: Affirmed. The double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits more than one prosecution for the same offense, but “under the dual-sovereignty doctrine, a single act gives rise to distinct offenses—and thus may subject a person to successive prosecutions—if it violates the laws of separate sovereigns.” (Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle (2016) 579 U.S. ___ [136 S.Ct. 1863, 1867].) Here, appellants argued that plea bargains should be exempt from the dual-sovereignty rule. The Court of Appeal concluded that appellants had not made the threshold showing that they were entitled to Fifth Amendment double jeopardy protection because they had not established that the federal crimes to which they pleaded guilty constitute the “same offense” as the state charges under the same-elements test. Neither misuse of visas nor minimum wage violations constituted the “same offense” as human trafficking under California law.

Appellants’ state human trafficking charges did not constitute vindictive prosecution and did not violate due process. Appellants alleged that an FBI agent was dissatisfied with the federal prosecutor’s negotiated plea bargain and “elicited the assistance of the LAPD to convince” the district attorney to bring state human trafficking charges. Appellants argued that the human trafficking charges constituted a vindictive prosecution and violated their due process rights. The Court of Appeal disagreed. In a pretrial setting, a claim of vindictive prosecution may be supported if the defendant can “prove objectively that the prosecutor’s charging decision was motivated by a desire to punish him for doing something the law plainly allowed him to do.” (People v. Jurado (2006) 38 Cal.4th 72, 98.) Appellants argued that a presumption of vindictiveness arose when the district attorney brought the state charges after the defendants exercised their right to accept a federal plea bargain. However, appellants did not establish that the prosecutorial decisions of the district attorney were motivated by a desire to punish appellants for exercising any recognized constitutional or statutory right. Furthermore, the doctrine of vindictive prosecution does not apply where independent decisions are made by separate federal and state prosecutors. Additionally, there was no substantive due process violation because appellants did not show that the decision to bring the human trafficking charges was arbitrary, capricious, or irrational. The court also disagreed with appellants’ argument that the state court must give full faith and credit to the federal order and judgment or risk rendering the plea bargains illusory. The full faith and credit clause cannot be used to deny a state its sovereign power to enforce its own criminal law.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: