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Alleyne v. United States

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Alleyne appealed the conviction of the trial court on the basis that the jury must determine whether or not a fact exists that can increase his mandatory sentencing under the violation of a criminal statute.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A fact that can increase the mandatory minimum sentencing of a crime is a fact that must be submitted and determined by the jury under the Sixth Amendment.

    Facts.

    Allen Alleyne’s (Alleyne) held up a storeowner who was on the way to deposit his proceeds to the bank, while Alleyne’s accomplice approached the storeowner’s car with a gun. The carrier of a gun is subject to the following minimum sentences: (1) five years for carrying the gun, (2) seven years for displaying the gun, and (3) ten years for firing the gun. The trial court found that Alleyne brandished the gun and sentenced him to seven years imprisonment. Alleyne appealed on the basis that the jury did not determine that he brandished the gun. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed and the Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari.

    Issue.

    Whether the jury is required to determine a fact that increases the mandatory minimum sentencing of a crime?

    Held.

    Yes. The decision of the court of appeals is vacated and the case is remanded for the jury to determine whether Alleyne brandished the gun.

    Dissent.

    (Alito, J.) Apprendi should be overruled because it misinterpreted the principles of the Sixth Amendment.

    (Roberts, J.) The fact that the judge determined that Alleyne brandished the gun prior to imposing the seven-year sentence is irrelevant because the judge maintains the statutory privilege to impose the seven year sentence. Since the Sixth Amendment affords convicted defendants constitutional protections from the power of the government, the majority opinion improperly transforms the Sixth Amendment protection into a protection from the legislature that writes the law that imposes the minimum sentencing.

    Concurrence.

    (Breyer, J.) Although Apprendi improperly removed the distinction between the elements of a crime and sentencing, Apprendi properly overruled the decision made in Harris.

    (Sotomayor, J.) The Apprendi decision does not distinguish between facts that increase the minimum sentence and facts that increase the maximum sentence: both facts must be submitted to the jury.

    Discussion.

    In Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), the trial court determined that facts should be considered elements of a crime and subsequently increase the sentencing that is faced by a defendant. The Apprendi decision overturned the holding in Harris that required a fact that increased the mandatory minimum sentencing in a crime need not be submitted to the jury. In this case, the fact that Alleyne brandished the gun increased Alleyne’s minimum sentencing from five to seven years. Because the district court found that Alleyne brandished the gun, rather than the jury, Alleyne’s Sixth Amendment rights were violated.


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