Repeated sentencing of crimes, in whole or in part, in previously passed sentences violates the res judicata principle (Taiwan)

Angela Wu and Tina Lee

The Grand Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court rendered the 110-Tai-Kang-Da-Zi-489 ruling on September 15, 2021, holding that repeated sentencing of crimes, in whole or in part, from which previous combined sentences were pronounced constitutes res judicata violation.

The facts of this ruling are as follows: the offender is involved in 8 counts of using second-degree drugs and theft, whose combined sentence was already pronounced. Furthermore, he is also involved in 3 counts of using first-degree drugs and forging documents, whose combined sentence was pronounced as well. To the offender’s request, the prosecutor motioned another sentencing to combine the crimes in the two previously pronounced sentences — first and second-degree drug usage. The original trial Court has rejected the prosecutor’s motion on the basis of res judicata violation. The prosecutor then filed an appeal.

The legal issue of this case is whether res judicata violations are limited to repeated sentencing of crimes wholly identical to crimes of previously pronounced sentences. In other words, does repeated sentencing of crimes only partially identical to crimes of previously pronounced sentences constitute res judicata violations?

The ruling states that unless there’s a change in foundations of a pronounced sentence’s (e.g., separate case affirming the addition of other crimes in multiple offenses sentencing; or situations where some crimes in a pronounced sentence were amended, pardoned, or commuted via extraordinary appeal), the Court shall be bound by the substantive certainty of the original rulings. There would be a risk of double jeopardy if the Court were to sentence repeatedly, wholly or partly, already sentenced crimes. Thus, it violates res judicata, whose violation is not only limited to crimes fully identical to crimes of previously pronounced sentences.

Furthermore, the ruling stressed that although Code of Criminal Procedure grants the prosecutor, defendant, or defender opportunities to state their opinions regarding the sentencing, the arguments over the sentencing is not practical when the defendant’s guilt and sentences are not yet adjudicated. Therefore, to create a more comprehensive procedural protection, unless it is manifestly unnecessary or under emergency circumstances, the Court should allow the offender to address his/her opinion via verbal, written, or any other appropriate means before deciding his/her execution of punishment .