Brief Fact Summary. Cotton and others brought appeal of their convictions for narcotics charges when they received enhanced sentences based on quantities of drugs not alleged in their indictments.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. When a defendant fails to raise an issue, such as an indictment omission, at trial, he cannot later raise that issue.
In federal prosecutions, such facts must also be charged in the indictment.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether a fact that causes enhanced sentencing must be included in an indictment in order to be used against a defendant.
Held. Reversed. In a unanimous opinion, the Court held that omission of a fact that may cause enhanced sentencing does not justify vacation of a sentence.
Discussion. While the respondents attempted to rely on the holding in Apprendi, a fact that only enhances sentencing but does increase the level of punishment (i.e. prison time is still prison time), should be raised by a defendant at trial if he intends to raise it as an issue for sentencing.