Alleyne v. United States, No. 11-9335, __ U.S. __ (June 17, 2013).

JUSTICE THOMAS announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, III–B, III–C, and IV, and an opinion with respect to Parts II and III–A, in which JUSTICE GINSBURG, JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR, AND JUSTICE KAGAN join:

In Harris v. United States, 536 U. S. 545 (2002), this Court held that judicial fact finding that increases the mandatory minimum sentence for a crime is permissible under the Sixth Amendment. We granted certiorari to consider whether that decision should be overruled.

Harris drew a distinction between facts that increase the statutory maximum and facts that increase only the mandatory minimum. We conclude that this distinction is inconsistent with our decision in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U. S. 466 (2000), and with the original meaning of the Sixth Amendment. Any fact that, by law, increases the penalty for a crime is an “element” that must be submitted to the jury and found beyond a reasonable doubt. See id., at 483, n. 10, 490. Mandatory minimum sentences increase the penalty for a crime. It follows, then, that any fact that increases the mandatory minimum is an “element” that must be submitted to the jury. Accordingly, Harris is overruled.

. . . .

. . . Alleyne was later charged with multiple federal offenses, including . . . using or carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, [18 U.S.C.] §924(c)(1)(A). Section 924(c)(1)(A) provides, in relevant part, that anyone who “uses or carries a firearm” in relation to a “crime of violence” shall:

“(i) be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 5 years;

“(ii) if the firearm is brandished, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 7 years; and

“(iii) if the firearm is discharged, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 10 years.”

The jury convicted Alleyne. The jury indicated on the verdict form that Alleyne had “[u]sed or carried a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence,” but did not indicate a finding that the firearm was “[b]randished.” App. 40.

. . . .

Here, the sentencing range supported by the jury’s verdict was five years’ imprisonment to life. The District Court imposed the 7-year mandatory minimum sentence based on its finding by a preponderance of evidence that the firearm was “brandished.” Because the finding of brandishing increased the penalty to which the defendant was subjected, it was an element, which had to be found by the jury beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge, rather than the jury, found brandishing, thus violating petitioner’s Sixth Amendment rights.


Because I believe that the Court’s decision to apply Apprendi to mandatory minimums is consistent with stare decisis principles, I join the opinion of the Court.

JUSTICE BREYER, concurring in part and concurring in the judgment:

Eleven years ago, in Harris v. United States, 536 U. S. 545 (2002), I wrote that “I cannot easily distinguish Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U. S. 466 (2000), from this case in terms of logic.” Id., at 569 (opinion concurring in partand concurring in judgment). I nonetheless accepted Harris’ holding because I could “[n]ot yet accept [Apprendi’s] rule.” 536 U. S., at 569. I continue to disagree with Apprendi. See 536 U. S., at 569–570; United States v. Booker, 543 U. S. 220, 326 (2005) (opinion dissenting in part); Blakely v. Washington, 542 U. S. 296, 328 (2004) (dissenting opinion); Apprendi, supra, at 555 (same). But Apprendi has now defined the relevant legal regime for an additional decade. And, in my view, the law should no longer tolerate the anomaly that the Apprendi/Harris distinction creates.


Suppose a jury convicts a defendant of a crime carrying a sentence of five to ten years. And suppose the judge says he would sentence the defendant to five years, but because he finds that the defendant used a gun during the crime, he is going to add two years and sentence him to seven. No one thinks that this violates the defendant’s right to a jury trial in any way.

Now suppose the legislature says that two years should be added to the five year minimum, if the judge finds that the defendant used a gun during the crime. Such a provision affects the role of the judge—limiting his discretion—but has no effect on the role of the jury. And because it does not affect the jury’s role, it does not violate the jury trial guarantee of the Sixth Amendment.

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