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State v. Robertson

Supreme Court of Utah

May 15, 2017

State of Utah, Respondent,
v.
D. Chris Robertson, Petitioner.

         On Certiorari to the Utah Court of Appeals Third District, West Jordan The Honorable Terry L. Christiansen No. 111401510.

          Elizabeth Hunt, Salt Lake City, for petitioner

          Sean D. Reyes, Att'y Gen., Jeffrey S. Gray, Asst. Solic. Gen., Salt Lake City, for respondent Chief Justice Durrant authored the opinion of the Court, in which Associate Chief Justice Lee, Justice Durham, and Justice Himonas joined.

          Having recused himself, Justice Pearce did not participate herein.

          OPINION

          Durrant, Chief Justice

         Introduction

         ¶ 1 Defendant D. Chris Robertson was prosecuted and convicted by the federal government for possession of child pornography. The State of Utah subsequently charged him with twenty counts of sexual exploitation of a minor based on the same conduct. Mr. Robertson argues that Utah Code section 76-1-404 prohibits this subsequent state prosecution. That statute provides that "[i]f a defendant's conduct establishes the commission of one or more offenses within the concurrent jurisdiction of this state and of another jurisdiction, federal or state, the prosecution in the other jurisdiction is a bar to a subsequent prosecution in this state if . . . the former prosecution resulted in an acquittal, conviction, or termination of prosecution . . .; and [] the subsequent prosecution is for the same offense or offenses."

         ¶ 2 Under our previous interpretation of section 404, this statute would present no barrier to the current prosecution. In State v. Franklin, [1] we concluded that section 404 incorporated the "dual sovereignty" doctrine, a principle of double jeopardy law that permits subsequent prosecutions by different sovereigns, even for the "same offense." The court of appeals affirmed Mr. Robertson's convictions in accordance with this precedent.

         ¶ 3 Today, we reassess that earlier interpretation and ultimately conclude that it was wrongly decided. Taking into account stare decisis considerations, we overrule Franklin as to that issue and hold that the legislature's use of the phrase "same offense" in section 404 is an express rejection of the dual sovereignty doctrine. Properly interpreted, section 404 requires courts to employ only the Blockburger-Sosa test for determining whether two offenses are the "same offense." Under this test, two offenses are not the same if each requires proof of an element that the other does not.

         ¶ 4 After articulating the correct interpretation of the statute, we apply it to this case. Because the charged offenses in his federal and state prosecutions are the "same offense" under the Blockburger-Sosa test, and because the record shows that the state prosecution is based on the same conduct that was at issue in the initial federal prosecution, we conclude that section 404, properly interpreted, prohibits the State from prosecuting Mr. Robertson. We therefore reverse the decision of the court of appeals.

         Background

         ¶ 5 In March 2009, one of Mr. Robertson's employees alerted authorities that Mr. Robertson was viewing child pornography on his workplace computer. The Utah Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) began an investigation. Detective Mark Buhman, a Salt Lake City Police Department (SLPD) Officer assigned to the Utah ICAC, was made lead investigator on the case. The Utah ICAC is a "multi-jurisdictional task force that investigates and prosecutes individuals who use the Internet to exploit children."[2] The task force has thirty-two local, state, and federal police agency affiliates, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.[3]Although the Utah ICAC includes federal affiliates, the initial investigation of Mr. Robertson's case did not involve any federal agents.[4]

         ¶ 6 Detective Buhman eventually secured a warrant to search Mr. Robertson's business and seize his computers. During the search, officers seized a black, custom-built computer; a Dell computer; and several computer storage media. Examination of the computers revealed more than 24, 000 still images of child pornography and approximately 380 child pornography videos. Mr. Robertson agreed to speak to Detective Buhman during the search and admitted to viewing and downloading child pornography. But he denied re-sending or producing any pornography. Detective Buhman was eventually reassigned and Special Agent Benjamin Lee of the Utah Attorney General's Office took over the case.

         ¶ 7 Agent Lee concluded the investigation and decided to have the case screened for federal prosecution. Before moving forward with federal screening, Agent Lee sought approval from the Assistant Utah Attorney General who oversaw ICAC cases. Seeking such approval was standard protocol, and the Assistant Utah Attorney General had no objection. The State sought federal prosecution in order to obtain a more severe sentence.[5]

         ¶ 8 During federal screening, Agent Lee presented an attorney from the United States Attorney's Office with ten or eleven short digital videos depicting child pornography. Agent Lee testified that these videos "would have been from the Dell computer." The United States Attorney's Office concluded that there was probable cause to support federal prosecution.

         ¶ 9 Mr. Robertson was indicted by a federal grand jury in September 2009 on one count of possession of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 2252A(a)(5)(B) (2008).[6] The indictment charged Mr. Robertson with "knowingly possess[ing] computer disks and other materials containing images of child pornography." The indictment also contained a forfeiture notice, requiring Mr. Robertson to "forfeit to the United States . . . any and all property . . . used or intended to be used in any manner or part to commit and to facilitate the commission of a violation" of the federal child pornography criminal statute. The notice specifically identified the following property to be forfeited: the black custom tower, silver Dell tower, silver Maxtor external hard drive, Quantam Fireball, TDK CD-R Fresenius 11-5-08, and the CD-R 10/05 Latitude D505. Mr. Robertson ultimately pled guilty as charged and was sentenced to time served in jail (two days), five years of federally supervised release, and $75, 000 in restitution to be paid to two victims.

         ¶ 10 Upon learning of the federal sentence, an Assistant Utah Attorney General contacted Agent Lee to "discuss the possibility of filing state charges." After reviewing the evidence, the Assistant Utah Attorney General decided to proceed with state prosecution of Mr. Robertson. The State charged him with twenty counts of sexual exploitation of a minor in violation of Utah Code section 76-5a-3.[7] These charges were based on eleven images or videos of child pornography found on each of his two computers.[8] The probable cause statement initiating the State's case indicated that the State was prosecuting Mr. Robertson "for the same criminal acts" as the federal prosecution, which the State claimed was permitted "because prosecution under the laws of separate sovereigns does not subject a defendant to double jeopardy."

         ¶ 11 Mr. Robertson moved to dismiss the State charges, claiming that the State's prosecution violated his constitutional right to due process under the double jeopardy clause of the state and federal constitutions, violated Utah Code section 76-1-404's rule against double jeopardy, and was barred by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel. He also claimed that the State's prosecution was vindictive. The trial court denied Mr. Robertson's motion to dismiss, finding that the state prosecution following federal prosecution was permissible under current law and that the State's prosecution was not vindictive. As part of its order denying Mr. Robertson's motion, the court specifically found that Mr. Robertson's Utah prosecution was "[b]ased on the same body of evidence" as his federal prosecution. Mr. Robertson filed a petition for interlocutory appeal, which was denied.

         ¶ 12 After a bench trial where Mr. Robertson did not contest his guilt, he was convicted and sentenced to twenty concurrent terms of one to fifteen years in prison. At the sentencing hearing, the trial court described the case as "basically the same case that was had in federal court, it's based on the same facts." The court decided not to treat the prior federal conviction as an aggravating factor, reasoning that the federal conviction is "exactly the same case, same investigation, the same facts. . . . [and that] it would be unduly prejudicial . . . to consider it a prior criminal conviction when it's based on the same facts and circumstances."

         ¶ 13 Mr. Robertson appealed to the court of appeals, arguing "that the dual sovereignty doctrine should not apply under the circumstances of this case and that his state court convictions are therefore barred under the double jeopardy clauses of both the United States and Utah constitutions, as well as by state double jeopardy statutes and principles of res judicata."[9] The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the Bartkus exception to the federal dual sovereignty doctrine did not apply, [10] the Utah Constitution did not prevent the subsequent prosecution, [11] and res judicata did not apply because "the State and the federal government are not considered to be in privity for purposes of res judicata."[12] In a footnote, the court noted that Mr. Robertson also sought relief pursuant to Utah Code section 76-1-404.[13] The court recognized that we have interpreted this section to "provide protections that are consistent with traditional double jeopardy principles" and concluded that the statute did not provide "any greater protection than the constitutional provisions we have addressed herein."[14] Mr. Robertson petitioned for certiorari, which we granted. We have jurisdiction pursuant to Utah Code section 78A-3-102(3)(a).

         Standard of Review

         ¶ 14 We granted certiorari to address whether the court of appeals erred in holding that Utah Code section 76-1-404 did not bar the State's subsequent prosecution of Mr. Robertson.[15] "On certiorari, we review the court of appeals' decision for correctness, " which "turns on whether that court accurately reviewed the trial court's decision under the appropriate standard of review."[16] "The proper interpretation and application of a statute is a question of law [reviewed] for correctness."[17]

         Analysis

         ¶ 15 The double jeopardy clauses of both the Utah and federal constitutions limit the government's ability to prosecute or punish an individual multiple times for the same conduct.[18] In general, "[t]he prohibition against double jeopardy protects defendant[s] against three things: prosecution for the same offense after acquittal, prosecution for the same offense after conviction, and the infliction of multiple punishments for the same offense."[19] These protections turn on whether the subsequent prosecution or punishment is for the "same offense." There are two analyses that guide our inquiry into whether two offenses are the "same" under either constitution.

         ¶ 16 First, we employ the test announced by the United States Supreme Court in Blockburger v. United States[20]: two offenses are considered not the "same" when each "requires proof of a fact which the other does not."[21] We adopted this same test for use in double jeopardy cases arising under the Utah Constitution in State v. Sosa.[22]There we stated that if "the elements of [a defendant's] separate prosecutions differ, and either offense could have been established without establishing the other, the double jeopardy doctrine does not apply."[23] Under this test, a lesser included offense is considered the "same offense" as the greater offense.[24] We refer to this test, which "emphasizes the elements of the two crimes, "[25] as the Blockburger-Sosa test.

         ¶ 17 Second, we look to whether the successive prosecution is undertaken by the same sovereign. "[W]hen the same act transgresses the laws of two sovereigns, 'it cannot be truly averred that the offender has been twice punished for the same offense; but only that by one act he has committed two offenses, for each of which he is justly punishable.'"[26] Thus, even if two crimes would constitute the "same offense" under the Blockburger-Sosa test, they are considered separate offenses if prosecuted by two separate sovereigns, such as with successive prosecutions for the same conduct under state and federal law. This is known as the "dual sovereignty doctrine."[27]

         ¶ 18 These two analyses-Blockburger-Sosa and dual sovereignty-together determine whether a defendant has been prosecuted or punished for the "same offense" under both federal and Utah constitutional law. Some states have departed from this approach by enacting statutes that limit the dual sovereignty doctrine.[28] In these states, "a prior federal prosecution is a complete bar to a subsequent prosecution by the state."[29] The question before us today is whether our legislature in enacting Utah Code section 76-1-404 intended to similarly limit the dual sovereignty doctrine.

         ¶ 19 Our discussion of this issue proceeds in three parts. First, we discuss our prior interpretation of section 404, found in State v. Franklin, and conclude that we squarely held that section 404 incorporated without limitation the dual sovereignty doctrine. Second, we discuss whether that interpretation should be overruled today. We hold that it should. We then interpret section 404's use of "same offense" as incorporating only the Blockburger-Sosa test, though we note that the relevant units of prosecution help to inform courts as to the conduct at issue in the prosecutions. Finally, we determine that our decision to overrule Franklin will apply retroactively to cases pending on direct and collateral review and that, under the proper interpretation of section 404, the State was barred from prosecuting Mr. Robertson. Accordingly, we reverse the court of appeals' decision.

         I. In State v. Franklin, We Held that Section 76-1-404 Incorporated the Dual Sovereignty Doctrine

         ¶ 20 The heart of this case is the proper interpretation of Utah Code section 76-1-404. The statute reads as follows:

If a defendant's conduct establishes the commission of one or more offenses within the concurrent jurisdiction of this state and of another jurisdiction, federal or state, the prosecution in the other jurisdiction is a bar to a subsequent prosecution in this state if:
(1) the former prosecution resulted in an acquittal, conviction, or termination of prosecution, as those terms are defined in Section 76-1-403; and
(2) the subsequent prosecution is for the same offense or offenses.

         We have addressed this statute only once, in State v. Franklin.[30]Because the parties dispute the precedential effect of our discussion of section 404 in Franklin, we will review our decision in that case in some detail.

         ¶ 21 The defendant in Franklin was "an avowed racist" who "shot and killed two black men who were jogging in Liberty Park with two white women."[31] He was convicted in federal court "of violating the civil rights of his victims, " a federal offense, and received two life sentences.[32] "After the federal prosecution, defendant was charged and tried by the State of Utah for two counts of first degree murder, " with the State seeking the death penalty.[33] "The jury in Utah district court convicted defendant, but was unable to reach a unanimous verdict for death, " so the defendant was sentenced "to two consecutive life terms to be served at the end of the federal sentences."[34]

         ¶ 22 On appeal, the defendant claimed that his subsequent "trial in state court after his conviction in federal court violated the prohibitions against double jeopardy contained in the United States Constitution and in the Utah Constitution and Code"-section 76-1-404.[35] We first analyzed whether the two prosecutions were for the "same offense" under the Blockburger-Sosa test, which looks to whether the two offenses were "defined by the same legal elements."[36] We concluded that "[e]ach of the offenses of which defendant ha[d] been convicted require[d] proof of facts that the other does not."[37] For the civil rights violation, the federal prosecutor had to prove that the "defendant, by threat or force, willfully injured, intimidated, or interfered with another person because of the other's race, color, or national origin and because he was enjoying a benefit, service, privilege, program, or activity provided or administrated by a state."[38] But for the state offenses, the prosecutor was required to prove that the defendant "intentionally or knowingly kill[ed] both victims at the same time or in a manner that endangered the lives of persons other than himself or his victims."[39] "Thus, the federal and state statutes under which defendant was convicted require[d] proof of different elements and d[id] not define the same offense"-i.e., they were not the "same offense" under Blockburger-Sosa.[40]

         ¶ 23 Having reviewed whether the offenses were the same under the Blockburger-Sosa analysis, we then proceeded to the second analysis of whether the two offenses were the same: the dual sovereignty doctrine, which looks to whether the offenses were against the same sovereign. We concluded that "[d]efendant's convictions [were] also separate offenses because they were imposed under the laws of different sovereigns"-federal and state.[41] We disagreed with the defendant's argument that the Utah Constitution should be interpreted as rejecting the dual sovereignty doctrine, expressing concern that such a rejection would "surrender[] state sovereignty in exchange for a more theoretical than real gain in individual rights."[42] We also rejected his argument that Utah Code section 76-1-404 provided greater protections than those afforded by either the Utah or United States constitutions.[43]

         ¶ 24 The defendant in Franklin argued that we should "abandon the dual sovereignty doctrine" because section 76-1-404 "compels that result."[44] In our discussion of section 404, we noted that the protections offered by the statute turned on the meaning of "same offense."[45] This was crucial to our analysis for, "[w]hen the legislature uses a word with a well-established legal meaning, we assume that the legislature is aware of that meaning and has used the word in its proper sense."[46] We compared section 404 to the preceding statutory section, discussing how that section, which deals with offenses arising out of the same criminal episode, does not use the specific term "same offense, " a well-established term of art.[47]Thus, we concluded that the statutes indicated "the legislature's awareness of double jeopardy terminology and its intent to use that terminology precisely."[48] Ultimately, we held that section 404 should be viewed "as a legislative codification of traditional double jeopardy interpretation, " which included the dual sovereignty doctrine.[49]

         ¶ 25 Mr. Robertson argues that this second holding, our conclusion that section 404's use of "same offense" evidenced the legislative intent to incorporate both a Blockburger-Sosa analysis as well as the dual sovereignty doctrine, is dicta. "For a decision to become precedent and trigger stare decisis, 'it must be (1) [a] deliberate or solemn decision of a court or judge [2] made after argument of a question of law fairly arising in a case, and [3] necessary to its determination.'"[50] Our interpretation of section 404 in Franklin was a deliberate decision that we made after taking argument on that issue. The issue raised by Mr. Robertson is whether that decision was necessary to our determination. As he argues, because we had already concluded that the two offenses were not the "same offense" under Blockburger-Sosa, any discussion of dual sovereignty was extraneous to our discussion and ultimately not necessary for our decision. We reject this argument, as it misconstrues both the meaning of "necessary" and the relevant double jeopardy principles.

         ¶ 26 When we say that a holding is binding only when it is "necessary, " we do not mean that the holding must be the singular basis for our ultimate decision. Courts "often confront cases raising multiple issues that could be dispositive, yet they find it appropriate to resolve several, in order to avoid repetition of errors on remand or provide guidance for future cases. Or, [courts] will occasionally find it appropriate to offer alternative rationales for the results they reach."[51] Were we to require that a holding must be necessary in some strict, logical sense before it becomes binding precedent, then every time we articulated alternative bases for a decision we would convert our opinion into dicta, for none of the alternative bases are strictly necessary for the outcome. "[L]awyers advising their clients would have to guess whether a later [court] will recognize a ruling that is directly on point as also having been necessary. We decline to introduce such uncertainty into the law . . . ."[52]

         ¶ 27 Instead, "necessary" "means only that the court undeniably decided the issue, not that it was unavoidable for it do so."[53] As the Ninth Circuit stated:

Of course, not every statement of law in every opinion is binding . . . . Where it is clear that a statement is made casually and without analysis, where the statement is uttered in passing without due consideration of the alternatives, or where it is merely a prelude to another legal issue that commands the [court's] full attention, it may be appropriate to re-visit the issue in a later case. . . . Where, on the other hand, it is clear that a majority of the [court] has focused on the legal issue presented by the case before it and made a deliberate decision to resolve the issue, that ruling becomes the law . . . .[54]

         Thus, when this court "confronts an issue germane to the eventual resolution of the case, and resolves it after reasoned consideration in a published opinion, that ruling becomes the law of the [state], regardless of whether doing so is necessary in some strict logical sense."[55]

         ¶ 28 As discussed above, under traditional double jeopardy jurisprudence, the Blockburger-Sosa analysis and the dual sovereignty doctrine must both be satisfied for two offenses to be considered the same. In other words, two offenses are the same when they require proof of the same facts and are prosecuted by the same sovereign. Conversely, two offenses are not the same where each requires proof of a fact that the other does not or where they have been prosecuted by two different sovereigns. Failing either analysis means the offenses cannot be considered the "same" and, therefore, prosecution of both offenses is not barred by double jeopardy. In Franklin, we determined that the offenses were not the same under either analysis and that nothing in section 404 altered that result. As our discussion of one analysis did not preclude the consideration of the other, both analyses-Blockburger-Sosa and dual sovereignty-were germane to our ultimate decision. Thus, our second holding in Franklin, which specifically incorporated the dual sovereignty doctrine into our interpretation of section 76-1-404, was not dicta but an alternative holding that justified the result we reached. Accordingly, it is binding precedent. We turn now to the issue of whether that precedent should be overruled.

         II. We Hold that "same offense" in Section 76-1-404 Incorporates the Blockburger-Sosa Test but Rejects the Dual Sovereignty Doctrine, Overruling in Part State v. Franklin

         ¶ 29 Having clarified the precedential value of State v. Franklin, [56]we now discuss whether our decision therein that Utah Code section 76-1-404 incorporated the dual sovereignty doctrine should be overruled. We do not overrule a prior interpretation of a statute lightly, out of respect for the stare decisis principles of "predictability and fairness."[57] But even though overruling a prior interpretation of a statute is an "unusual step, "[58] "[t]he doctrine of stare decisis . . . 'is neither mechanical nor rigid as it relates to courts of last resort.'"[59] As we discuss below, we believe that the portion of Franklin interpreting the "same offense" language of section 404 to incorporate the dual sovereignty doctrine should be overruled. We hold today that "same offense, " as used in section 404, should be interpreted as incorporating only the Blockburger-Sosa test and that section 404 is an express rejection of the dual sovereignty doctrine.

         A. We Are Persuaded that Franklin's Interpretation of Section 76-1-404 Should Be Overruled

         ¶ 30 We consider at least three factors when deciding whether to overrule a prior interpretation of a statute: "the plausibility of the existing interpretation given the statute, the degree to which that interpretation has worked itself into the state of the law, and the strength of the arguments for changing that interpretation."[60] We discuss each factor below and conclude that they weigh in favor of overruling State v. Franklin.

         1. The plausibility of the existing interpretation

         ¶ 31 The first factor that we consider is "the plausibility of the existing interpretation given the statute."[61] This factor is analogous to the first factor we consider when deciding whether to overrule common law precedent: "the persuasiveness of the authority and reasoning on which the precedent was originally based."[62] In either case, we are looking to determine whether our prior decision properly considered the relevant arguments and reached a persuasive conclusion.[63] In the statutory interpretation context, this means we consider whether the prior interpretation is "[]reasonable given the statutory framework in existence at that time."[64]

         ¶ 32 Our interpretation of section 404 in Franklin is undermined by the fact that we did not consider in any great depth any of the language of the statute other than the phrase "same offense."[65]Although we noted that "same offense" was a term of art with particular meaning in the double jeopardy context and was intentionally used as a term of art in the statute, we did not examine whether the legislature intended to modify or limit the definition of that term of art. A familiar canon of statutory construction is that the context of a statute may eliminate potential interpretations of a statutory phrase.[66] And a possible interpretation of a statutory term that "undercut[s] the express language"[67] of the statute must be rejected because "we give effect to every word of a statute, avoiding '[a]ny interpretation which renders parts or words in a statute inoperative or superfluous.'"[68]

         ¶ 33 The language of section 76-1-404 plainly bars a Utah prosecution if the defendant has already been prosecuted for the same offense in another jurisdiction.[69] Thus, the language operates as a limitation on the dual sovereignty doctrine, which permits a defendant to be prosecuted for the same offense in two or more jurisdictions so long as the prosecutions are conducted by different sovereigns.[70] Indeed, far from incorporating the dual sovereignty doctrine, the statute does just the opposite-it acts as an express, legislative rejection of that doctrine. Interpreting the statute to incorporate the dual sovereignty doctrine, i.e., that it permits a Utah prosecution to follow prosecution for the same offense in another jurisdiction, requires us to read a meaning into the text that is directly contradicted by the text itself. We cannot think of an instance where a prosecution in another jurisdiction would not also necessarily involve prosecution by another sovereign.[71] Our interpretation in Franklin renders the statute a superfluity. Because our decision in Franklin did not grapple with this apparent incongruity, its interpretation of section 404 is accordingly less persuasive and plausible. We turn now to the second factor.

         2. The degree to which the prior interpretation has worked itself into the law

         ¶ 34 The second factor we consider in deciding whether to overrule a prior interpretation of a statute is "the degree to which that interpretation has worked itself into the state of the law."[72] This requires weighing "whether the interpretation in question has become settled in the minds of the bench and bar" and "the degree to which the interpretation, however old, has been woven into the fabric of the law."[73] This factor corresponds with the second factor considered in deciding whether to overrule common law precedent: "how firmly the precedent has become established in the law since it was handed down, " which looks to "the age of the precedent, how well it has worked in practice, its consistency with other legal principles, and the extent to which people's reliance on the precedent would create injustice or hardship if it were overturned."[74]Ultimately, we are concerned with whether overruling our precedent would upend broad swaths of the legal landscape.

         ¶ 35 Mr. Robertson argues that Franklin, while almost thirty years old, has not been "woven into the fabric of the law" because it has never again been cited for its interpretation of section 76-1-404. Although it is true that section 404 has only been addressed by Utah courts twice-once in Franklin and again in this case-and the dual sovereignty doctrine has only been addressed three times-Franklin, this case, and State v. Byrns, [75] a court of appeals case that did not address section 404-this evidence is unpersuasive. In A.C. Financial, Inc. v. Salt Lake County, the appellant "point[ed] to the fact that Black [the prior case interpreting a statute] ha[d] been infrequently cited and argue[d] that the rule of Black ha[d] not become firmly rooted in the state of the law and that abandoning it would have little impact."[76] We rejected this argument, stating that "[i]t is impossible to say whether the dearth of citations indicates that the Black [interpretation] is little known or rather that it has been consistently assumed to be valid to the extent that it has not been directly challenged."[77] The same holds true here: Franklin is clear, and the lack of any subsequent discussion of its holding may simply be the result of prosecutors and defendants accepting its interpretation of section 404.

         ¶ 36 Although the lack of citations is generally inconclusive, there are other ways of determining whether a particular interpretation has worked its way into the law. For example, in A.C. Financial, the prior interpretation had created a "widely accepted rule" that was repeatedly recognized in later cases.[78] We also noted that the general public had apparently accepted our interpretation, as demonstrated by the fact that "many mortgages and trust deeds . . . contain[ed] multiple provisions" directly related to the rule we had adopted.[79] Such acts showed a general acceptance of the prior interpretation and reliance on that interpretation by the public in settling their affairs. There is no such evidence in this case.

         ¶ 37 There are no other cases reaffirming the interpretation we adopted in Franklin. There are no other statutes or common law doctrines that depend on or otherwise incorporate our interpretation of section 404. And we are not persuaded that there is any great reliance on Franklin's interpretation of section 404. There are no contractual, property, or similar vested rights created by our interpretation of section 404 that would be undermined by departing from Franklin today. Indeed, the effects of a departure from our interpretation in Franklin are both obvious and narrow: the State would be prohibited from prosecuting a defendant who has already been prosecuted in another jurisdiction for the same offense.[80] Thus, "while [Franklin's] interpretation is settled, it is not so enmeshed in the substance of the law that it could not easily be changed without having many unanticipated ramifications and without conflicting with real or presumed legislative intentions."[81] This factor accordingly weighs in favor of overruling Franklin. We turn now to the third factor.

         3. The strength of the arguments for changing the prior interpretation

         ¶ 38 The third factor we look to when deciding whether to overrule a prior interpretation of a statute is "the strength of the arguments for changing that interpretation."[82] Under this factor we inquire whether "more good than harm will come by departing from precedent."[83] We do so by looking to policy arguments and "practical factors" that inform our careful consideration of where the departure from precedent will lead us.[84]

         ¶ 39 The State argues that our prior interpretation of section 76-1-404 should be upheld because it best protects the interests of the State of Utah and its citizens. The State claims that if we interpret section 404 as rejecting the dual sovereignty doctrine, we would be "relinquish[ing] unnecessarily the power of the State to try and punish those who break its laws" based on prosecutions in other jurisdictions that may not satisfy Utah's sovereign interests.[85] It also argues that because the federal government remains free to prosecute an individual after a Utah prosecution, we would "be surrendering state sovereignty in exchange for a more theoretical than real gain in individual rights."[86]

         ¶ 40 Although the State's arguments have some merit-indeed, these were the very reasons why we originally incorporated the dual sovereignty doctrine into section 404-they do not outweigh our duty to respect our constitutionally limited role as interpreters and not creators of statutory law. Our constitution vests the legislative power of the State in the legislature and legal voters.[87] "The legislative power is . . . defined by the work product it generates[:] . . . rules of general applicability."[88] These statutes or ordinances "set[] the governing standard for all cases coming within [their] terms."[89] The judicial power, on the other hand, is limited to "resolving specific disputes between parties as to the applicability of the law to their actions."[90] We respect the constitutional separation of powers by interpreting and applying legislation according to what appears to be the legislature's intent, neither "infer[ring] substantive terms into the text that are not already there" nor taking away from the statutory text by ignoring it or rendering it superfluous.[91]

         ¶ 41 As we discussed above, the plain language of Utah Code section 76-1-404 indicates a legislative intent to preclude prosecutions by the State following a prosecution of the same offense in another jurisdiction. Thus, the intent of section 404 is to limit the dual sovereignty doctrine in Utah. To interpret the language "same offense" as incorporating the dual sovereignty doctrine would negate the intent of the statute, leaving it entirely superfluous. Indeed, if the statute provides no greater protections than those offered by the federal and Utah constitutions-protections which have long been recognized in our law-it is a pure redundancy. We assume the legislature intended something by enacting section 404, and we assume that intent is expressed in the language of the statute. We have "no power to rewrite [a] statute to conform to an intention not expressed."[92] Despite the policy reasons we pointed to as support for our original interpretation in Franklin, it is ultimately not within our power to nullify a statute on policy grounds; indeed, to do so "would be an unwarranted assumption of legislative authority."[93]

         ¶ 42 Further, there are policy reasons that favor an expansion of double jeopardy principles. As the United States Supreme Court stated:

The underlying idea, one that is deeply ingrained in at least the Anglo-American system of jurisprudence, is that the State with all its resources and power should not be allowed to make repeated attempts to convict an individual for an alleged offense, thereby subjecting him to embarrassment, expense and ordeal and compelling him to live in a continuing state of anxiety and insecurity, as well as enhancing the possibility that even though innocent he may be found guilty.[94]

         Double jeopardy principles provide vital protections to individuals, and the legislature's apparent intent to expand such protections beyond the constitutional minimum should be respected. These considerations-separation of powers and double jeopardy principles-are compelling arguments in favor of abandoning our prior interpretation of section 404.

         ¶ 43 Each of the three factors discussed above weighs in favor of overruling our prior interpretation that section 76-1-404 incorporated the dual sovereignty doctrine. Although we are generally reluctant to overrule precedent, this case is a prime example of a circumstance where revisiting a prior decision is both justified and appropriate. Accordingly, we hereby overrule our holding in Franklin that section 76-1-404 is simply "a legislative codification of traditional double jeopardy interpretation, "[95] including the dual sovereignty doctrine.[96]We turn now to the appropriate meaning of that section.

         B. Section 76-1-404's Inclusion of "Same Offense" Incorporates the Blockburger-Sosa Test

         ¶ 44 Utah Code section 76-1-404 states that "[i]f a defendant's conduct establishes the commission of one or more offenses within the concurrent jurisdiction of this state and of another jurisdiction, federal or state, the prosecution in the other jurisdiction is a bar to a subsequent prosecution in this state if" two conditions are satisfied. First, the prior prosecution must have "resulted in an acquittal, conviction, or termination of prosecution, as those terms are defined in Section 76-1-403." Second, the subsequent Utah prosecution must be "for the same offense or offenses." The central issue in this case is what the legislature meant by "same offense or offenses."

         ¶ 45 As we recognized in Franklin, "[w]hen the legislature uses a word with a well-established legal meaning, we assume that the legislature is aware of that meaning and has used the word in its proper sense."[97] Our determination in Franklin that "same offense" was a term of art that had particular meaning in the double jeopardy context is still correct. The legislature's use of the term "same offense" as a specific condition of the protections offered by section 404 "is indicative of the legislature's awareness of double jeopardy terminology and its intent to use that terminology precisely."[98]Indeed, the prior version of section 404, in effect until 1973, stated that a prior "criminal prosecution under the laws of a state, government, or country, founded upon the act or omission in respect to which he is on trial" in Utah was "a sufficient defense."[99] The legislature amended the statute, changing the more general language of "act or omission in respect to which he is on trial" to that of "same offense or offenses, " deliberately invoking the double jeopardy term of art. Thus, though we have overruled our narrow conclusion in Franklin that the term "same offense" incorporated the dual sovereignty doctrine, we reaffirm the more general point that "same offense, " as used in section 404, is a term of art.

         ¶ 46 "Generally, absent express direction to the contrary, we presume that a term of art used in a statute is to be given its usual legal definition."[100] Section 404 contains such direction. As has been discussed, the term "same offense" connotes two separate analyses: the Blockburger-Sosa test and the dual sovereignty doctrine. It is impossible to incorporate both of these approaches into the statute, however, because incorporation of the dual sovereignty doctrine renders the statute a nullity-both permitting and forbidding subsequent Utah prosecutions for the "same offense"-and ignores the unmistakable legislative intent to limit the dual sovereignty doctrine. Thus, "all but one of the meanings [has been] eliminated by context"[101] and section 404's use of the term of art "same offense" incorporates only the Blockburger-Sosa test. We accordingly hold that, under section 404, a court must determine whether a prior foreign prosecution and a subsequent Utah prosecution are for the same offense using the Blockburger-Sosa test-whether the two statutory offenses each require proof of a fact that the other does not.

         ¶ 47 The State urges us to modify the Blockburger-Sosa test by looking not only to the elements of the two criminal offenses, but also to the applicable "unit of prosecution." Under the State's approach, "the laws of different sovereigns cannot fairly be considered the 'same'-even if elementally identical in the Blockburger sense-if the unit of prosecution of one is different than the other." For the reasons discussed below, however, we disagree. Although the relevant units of prosecution may inform the question of what specific conduct the State is seeking to prosecute the defendant for, and whether that conduct is the same as that for which the defendant has already been prosecuted in another jurisdiction, the fact that two criminal statutes identify two different units of prosecution does not mean that the offenses are different under Blockburger-Sosa for purposes of section 404.

         ¶ 48 "The allowable unit of prosecution for an offense determines whether a perpetrator's conduct constitutes one or more violations of that offense."[102] In essence, the unit of prosecution defines the minimum amount of conduct necessary to constitute a single violation of a particular criminal statute. "A unit of prosecution can be either an act or a course of conduct, " depending on the relevant statute.[103] We recently explained how units of prosecutions can differ, using the example of child pornography:

It is a crime to "intentionally . . . view [ ] child pornography." If a perpetrator views multiple images of multiple victims over a period of time, how many times has he committed the offense? Perhaps there is one violation for each viewing session, regardless of the number of images or victims. Or maybe there is one violation for each victim or one for each image. The allowable unit of prosecution provided by the offense resolves this question.[104]

         The State argues that, so long as two criminal statutes have different units of prosecution, they can never be considered the "same offense" under section 404.

         ¶ 49 The problem with this argument is that section 404 looks to whether "a defendant's conduct establishes the commission of one or more offenses" that are "the same offense."[105] One statute may employ a different unit of prosecution and thereby measure the conduct necessary to constitute an offense differently than another statute. But even though the statutes measure the relevant conduct differently-such as by measuring the number of victims portrayed in child pornography instead ...


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