Brief Fact Summary. This opinion comes from the consolidation of two cases dealing with sentencing enhancement.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. It is in violation of the Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury to allow a judge to enhance a sentence using facts not reviewed by the jury.
If the Guidelines as currently written could be read as merely advisory provisions that recommended, rather than required, the selection of particular sentences in response to differing sets of facts, their use would not implicate the Sixth Amendment.View Full Point of Law
Issue. This case presents a two pronged issue:
1) whether imposing an enhanced sentence under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, based on a judicial determination violates the Sixth Amendent, and if it does
2) whether the Sentencing Guidelines are unconstitutional.
Held. The court held that where the sentencing guidelines allow judges to enhance sentences using facts not reviewed by juries it is a violation of the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury. The guidelines were not altogether unconstitutional, but would be considered advisory as opposed to mandatory.
Dissent. Justice Stevens dissented, noting that their decision repealed the Sentencing Reform Act and took away the Congressional right to determine sentencing. Justice Scalia also dissented, noting that by overturning the Sentencing Guidelines, the Court is effectively allowing for a litany of different sentences, all for the same crime.
Discussion. While there are several opinions to this case, the outcome is simple: a judge cannot use evidence, other than that which is presented to a jury, to enhance sentencing or a defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights will be violated.